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For saxophonist Tony Malaby this has been a landmark year, with appearances on recordings by Mark Helias, Mario Pavone, Angelica Sanchez, as well as his own Apparitions – his second record as a leader. It brings the saxophonist together with bassist Drew Gress and drummers Tom Rainey and Michael Sarin. Despite the tandem drummers (who individually sound like two people), Apparitions is not a blur of notes and noise – the musicians listen and react, letting the music breathe.
Although song titles allude to Malaby's exploration of his Mexican-American heritage, it's an emotional rather than literal influence. Malaby's writing sets the parameters for the music, blurring the line between composition and improvisation. The disc starts with "The Mestizo Suite," a three-part tome with a driving rhythm from Gress that the drummers embellish while Malaby floats over it. A drum conversation employing careful dynamics segues the more atmospheric "Humo." The third part, "Mambo Chueco," has a quick tempo that propels Malaby into a fierce solo, alternating between extended notes and lines that mirror the polyrhythmic drummers. The end of the tune is an excellent example of the musicians' careful listening, as Rainey lays out and then plays fills against or off of the groove established by Sarin and Gress, while Malaby wails over top.
"Talpa" has a mournful tenor melody and unhurried bass line, the drummers using mallets to change the texture. Malaby wields a soprano saxophone for "Voladores," a duet with Gress, and for "Jersey Merge," another rollicking rhythmic exercise. The title tune has Malaby's horn sounding flute-like, and it oscillates between tight ensemble playing and freer, spacious sections - a microcosm of the recording as a whole.
The sinuous rhythms and fiery saxophone on Apparitions establishes Malaby as someone to watch and begs the question: what's in store for 2004?
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.