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Alive in Brooklyn, the debut release from the improvising trio of saxophonist Tony Malaby, Wurlitzer player Angelica Sanchez, and drummer Tom Rainey, was recorded live last September at Barbes. Despite having no written music to provide context for the improvisations, the trio gives them momentum and shape without blurting hundreds of notes devoid of meaning. Instead, the pieces wind through dynamic peaks and valleys, threatening to spin out of control, but remaining grounded by the musicians' support and close listening.
The thematic 'Chimera' opens the set. After a somewhat tentative introduction, Sanchez and Rainey link into a tight rhythmic unison that whips Malaby's bleating, powerful tenor runs. Washes of Wurlitzer swirl behind the horn, filling the space. Just as the intensity peaks, the trio pulls back to test quieter dynamics. Exchange between Sanchez and Rainey occurs often, providing a rhythmic base for Malaby's extrapolations. Another important aspect is exhibited on 'Brujeria.' After a subtle introduction from Rainey, Malaby's soprano slinks around the loose passages, with Sanchez adding tonal color. Malaby lays out for a Wurlitzer-drums duet, during which Sanchez plays a short repeating phrase. When Malaby re-emerges, he plays that phrase, using it as a springboard for his solo flight. 'The Hat' begins with a plaintive soprano line. Later, Rainey provides a melodic drum groove, while Sanchez and Malaby trade phrases. Near the end, Malaby, on tenor, repeats the opening line, giving the improvisation a circular resolution.
At the CD release last month in the very room it was recorded, the trio'without discussion or even visual cues'moved through several improvisations, sometimes leaving the crowd in a bemused silence, not knowing when one ended and another began. With a tour planned this spring, their empathy should grow stronger'and that could be frightening.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.