Toronto-based double-bassist Rob Clutton and New York saxophonist Tony Malaby have history that dates back to 1999; after meeting at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, where both were resident artists, they eventually ended up as half of Toronto drummer Nick Fraser's quartet which released its first album, Starer (Self Produced), in 2016. Clutton has several albums to his name, including Dubious Pleasures (Rat-Drifting, 2005) and Suchness Monster (Rat-Drifting, 2009) both of which are solo bass recordings. For Offering, rather than another solo bass recording, Clutton opted for a duo with Malaby. Presumably, instead of being billed as Rob Clutton & Tony Malaby, the use of "with" signals that Clutton is the senior partner. That is borne out by the credits; of the album's eleven tracks, seven are Clutton compositions, three are improvisations credited jointly to both Clutton and Malaby, while the eleventh is Nick Fraser's "Sketch #11." According to Nick Storring's informative sleeve notes, Clutton's compositions here were based upon transcriptions of his own improvisatory playing. The eleven tracks vary in length from just under two-and-a-half minutes to just over five, playing for forty-four minutes altogether. The brevity of some pieces is an indication that no time is spent on niceties such as prolonged introductory themes; the two get stuck into soloing from the start. When it comes to playing rather than composing, there is no hierarchy or pecking order here. Clutton and Malaby play as equals, neither of them leading or dominating. Straight from the opening phrases of the title track, it is apparent why Clutton chose Malaby as a partner here; the two have a good rapport, their melodic phrases flowing and fitting together like pieces of a jigsaw. For obvious reasons, across the album the boundaries between composition and improvisation are blurred, but the two are clearly so used to improvising together that they fit well. Malaby alternates between his tenor and soprano saxophones, keeping the music fresh and varied. The album as a whole demonstrates the success of the method Clutton used to compose the pieces here. Those pieces work well with this duo, but the results suggest there would also be scope to employ them with a larger ensemble; that is not to dismiss this Clutton-Malaby pairing which clearly has many great days ahead.
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