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The concept of two drummers is not new to jazz, but it is rather unusual in a quartet. Hand it to Tony Malaby: he knows what he was doing. His music calls for an intense rhythm bed and both Tom Rainey and Mark Sarin, brothers of the pulse, interweave to set up that organic fabric.
Malaby is a robust tenor player. His voice is full blooded and he lends a definite presence as he marks his territory with authority. “The Mephisto Suite” serves as a fine example. In the first movement, Malaby’s exploration rears its head in a series of short probes before it goes into longer sinuous lines and then quick punctuation for constantly shifting patterns. He then beckons a more pliant cast, honks sidling against thick, chewy notes, all the while the drums in a churn and the bass of Drew Gress pushing the beat. The third segment placates the vigour as the suite comes full circle in soft shade for an endearing emotional commitment.
Malaby’s compositions throb with drama. They display a constant urgency, which does not merely mean that the conversation is always heated – it can also be seen when the mood is tranquil, a trait that gives “Tula” its glow before the strain becomes daubed in darker, bolder hue. The up-tempo pace serves Malaby well as he keys rapid changes on “Dos Caminos,” which starts in bop mode over rumbling bass and drums, before he soars into the upper registers and ignites a load of molten sparks and on “Jersey Merge,” a maelstrom of free flowing abundance on the soprano. His references on “Voladores,” however, are oblique, there is little gravity and all the commendable technique that comes into play is eclipsed. But this, in the overall ambit, is but a tiny blip.