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Tony Malaby: Apparitions

AAJ Staff By

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Some say John Coltrane was mad with divine love. And they're right. The voice of the spirit flowed through everything he did, more and more so toward the end. He was indeed doomed to a life of eternal love.

Along Coltrane's course to the great beyond, he saw something special in the sound of two drummers, which was a pretty natural stretch given the way he had continually picked up the sounds of Africa. It's too bad Rashied Ali and Elvin Jones didn't share more empathy or we may have heard that idea come to fruition by the time Trane made the sax/drums duet recording Interstellar Space in his final year. We'll never know.

Tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby is also crazy with divine love. But he's figured out how to get two drummers to go along with it: Tom Rainey and Michael Sarin. If you have your stereo set up right—aim those speakers, dammit!—you'll hear Sarin on the left and Rainey on the right. Keeping track of the way these players add and multiply each other is half the fun of the record, really. The other half is Malaby himself, who has such a naked, open voice that you can't help but believe what he says. (Not to neglect bassist Drew Gress, who's a formidable presence of his own.)

It takes a couple tracks before Malaby cranks up the spiritual volume, but by the time you hear "Mambo Chuevo," the third chapter in his Mestizo Suite, you know you're going to rip your way through some serious mountain passes. No holding back, nothing short of pure honesty in every note. They aren't necessarily loud, tweaked timbrally, or scattered apart like a flock of doves. All of the above, but Malaby also has the virtue of simultaneously keeping a foot on the ground at all times. That connectedness and organic essence is what informs every crazy note he plays, because Tony Malaby understands very well the weakness of human character. He cries out and—provided you're listening—you'll probably learn a little about who you are. When he whispers, you better turn your head.

It's that amazing madness, combined with two drummers who have learned how to play as one (with butting heads attached), and a bass presence that's usually more rhythmic than melodic, and... well, the kindling has stoked the fire. It doesn't matter if any given piece is pensive or cathartic—and there's a whole lot of the former—you can feel that light glowing within.

This bodes ominously for Tony Malaby's career—not to subtract the generous buttressing he receives from below. He's doomed, alright. You care to go with him?

Visit Songlines on the web.


Track Listing: The Mestizo Suite: 1. Picacho, 2. Humo, 3. Mambo Chueco. 4. Talpa; 5. Voladores; 6. Fast Tip; 7. Apparitions; 8. Dos Caminos; 9. Jersey Merge; 10. Tula.

Personnel: Tony Malaby, tenor & soprano saxophone; Tom Rainey, drums; Michael Sarin, drums & percussion; Drew Gress, acoustic bass.

Title: Apparitions | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings


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