Bagatellen review by Derek Taylor

Tony Malaby / William Parker / Nasheet Waits – Tamarindo (CF 099)
Saxophonist Tony Malaby spent a significant portion of his formative years as a resident of Tucson, Arizona. That early history colors his new Clean Feed effort from the Latino Catholic iconography of the cover to the searchingly theistic mood of various pieces. The compositions pivot mainly on porous riffs: the sort of territory well-suited to his heavyweight partners, bassist William Parker and drummer Nasheet Waits. Parker defers often to muscular, if somewhat easily mappable, vamps and ostinatos. That preference sometimes strays toward the methodical, but there’s no denying the brawn and breadth of his delivery. A penchant for snapping slackened strings stridently against bridge is also in prevalent effect. His arco work is surprisingly raw and he rakes his bow across strings like a chipped straight razor hiccupping across a leather sharpening strap. It’s a bit disconcerting, particularly on the somber “Floral and Herbacious[sic]”, but sounds purely intentional. Waits approximates a hydroelectric dynamo, scaring up surging polyrhythms with a surety that recalls Elvin Jones.

Malaby, while receptive to the bridled energy, relinquishes little in terms of positioning or clout. His textured tenor play balances tenderness with authority. On the title piece the outcome is like a blending of Ayler and Jim Pepper, repeating trills soaring and falling atop a tumbling avalanche of rhythm. As galvanizing as his work is on the larger horn, it’s his incisive soprano that truly commands attention, particularly on the moody “Mariposa”. The clarity and liquidity of tone on “Mother’s Love” approximates that of a Native American flute as Parker plucks clipped harmonics and Waits ranges over his kit with whispering brushes. Parker’s switch to bow finds much of the grit and bite of his earlier sawing replaced with a disarming beauty. “Floating Head” carries the album out in a manner akin to how it opens with the three sprinting forward on another flexing vamp and syncopated beat.

Malaby continues to shoulder hits from certain circles that deem him a player prone to passivity. The music on this disc, while checkered with a few rough spots, refutes that contention summarily though it certainly helps having improv athletes of the caliber of Parker and Waits on the team.

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