Tony Malaby’s Tamarindo

Live
Clean Feed CF 200CD

By Ken Waxman

Despite the overtly Christian religious iconography on the cover of Tamarindo Live, it would seem that the faith affirmed by this expanded version of saxophonist Tony Malaby’s band is that of free jazz. Moreover, the addition of veteran trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, certainly no fundamentalist, to the core trio filled out by second-generation drum stylist Nasheet Waits and free jazz’s most omnipresent bassist William Parker, elevates the program to an even higher spiritual and sonic plane.

Malaby, who served his apprenticeship in bands such as bassist’s Mark Helias’ trio, is confident in his solos at this Jazz Gallery session, and contributes four strong compositions. Unsurprisingly, the weightiest is the unadorned “Death Rattle”. Intense friction from Parker’s string rasgueado and Watts’ mercurial press rolls set the scene, elaborated by buzzing grace notes and slurs from the trumpeter and split tone and snorts from the saxophonist. Eventually as the drummer’s ruffs and ratamacues harden into march tempo, a sequence of reed sluices are evoked in double counterpoint to Smith’s capillary brays and bugle-call-like clarion runs. With all four players maintaining the tension, the final variant offers relief following Watts’ cymbal slaps and positioned nerve beats.

Happily the other tracks are more life affirming. “Jack the Hat with Coda” –celebrating Malaby’s son – is tender and temperate, the horns in counterpoint characterized by Smith’s trilling lopes and Malaby’s near-piccolo-tone soprano sax vibrations. As Smith and Malaby advance the line in lockstep, Parker’s stops and strums plus Watts’ bass drum smacks and paradiddles, downshift the theme to subdued concordance, given an added lilt in the dissolving postlude with barely there soprano chirps and trumpet obbligato.

Hopefully more than a one-shot experiment, a quartet Tamarindo is a first-class achievement all around.

Tracks: Buoyant Boy; Death Rattle; Hibiscus; Jack the Hat with Coda

Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet; Tony Malaby: tenor and soprano saxophones; William Parker: bass; Nasheet Waits: drums

— For All About Jazz New York February 2011