Tag Archives: Tony Malaby

Jazztimes review by Mike Shanley

Even among today’s many ambitious drummer-composer-bandleaders, Ches Smith applies his skills to an especially dynamic array of brainy projects. Last year he appeared on Tim Berne’s Snakeoíl, continued in Mary Halvorsods quintet and released a solo percussion disc, to name a few. His technique has landed him in a number of exploratory rock bands, too, including Marc Ribofs Ceramic Dog.

Halvorson switched leadership roles with Smith for These Arches’ strong 2010 debut, Finally Out ofMy Hands, which also included Andrea Parkins (accordion, electronics) and Tony Malaby (tenor saxophone). When Malaby couldnt make a tour, Berne ñlled in and never left, ratcheting up the caliber of the music and the potential for wild flights off of the compositions. Hammered delivers in both respects.

Smith’s writing straddles his musical backgrounds, with the visceral attack of his rock side, some tripped-up melodic detours and a willingness to stop and rethink directions when least expected. The steady guitar and thundering toms on the title track sound like a Sonic Youth backing track, with alto and accordion superimposing an Eastern European melody on it. Like many of the songs, it includes a section where the quintet splits into five-point chaos. With all those lead instruments, the albums free flights get busy but never cluttered, and someone always directs everyone back to the theme. Smith’s accents and  spur the group on to the next level. Of the two saxophonists, Malaby often plays with more aggression, coming to a boil with growls and overtones, yet Berne does his fair share of ripping, too. Parkins and Halvorson cover the low end, rocking especially hard on “This Might Be a Fade Out.” Hopefully the players’ busy calendars worft preclude a follow-up to Hammered.

Expresso review by João Santos

CF 270Ches Smith and These Arches – Hammered (CF 270)
4 estrelas
Ches Smith apresenta um ambicioso estudo informado por trabalho de campo – ao lado de necrófilos da estirpe de Trevor Dunn (na presente encarnação do Trio-Convulsant), Jamie Stewart (nos neogóticos Xiu Xiu), Carla Bozulich (na encantação acusmática de Evangelista) e Trey Spruance (na funérea excentricidade dos Secret Chiefs 3) – desenvolvido nas mais variadas morgues musicais, autopsiando cada compasso e tónica, escalpelizando estrofe e refrão ou dissecando timbre, harmonia, melodia e ritmo com a incansável diligência de um patologista do apocalipse e o mórbido zelo de um enciclopedista de profecias. Numa análise geracional, o que há uns anos passava por iconoclasta curiosidade (no testemunho de figuras como John Zorn, Weasel Walter ou Elliott Sharp) deu hoje lugar a uma espécie de neurótica insaciedade (em Ches e em nomes como Kris Davis, Nate Wooley ou Peter Evans), que tem como crucial mais-valia algo de extremamente simples: a expressão de artistas que são mais do que uma lista de restrições dentro de determinada categoria, iludindo quer a tradição quer a redutora neofilia, e cujo discurso se fundamenta na assunção de um ilimitado terreno de exploração. É nessa perspetiva sintomático que se anuncie já que o próximo tomo destes These Arches – Smith na bateria, Tim Berne no saxofone alto, Tony Malaby no saxofone tenor, Mary Holvorson à guitarra elétrica e Andrea Parkins ao acordeão – seja um disco com versões de temas associados a Nina Simone, precisamente gravado com o vocalista dos Xiu Xiu. E não admira que “Hammered” se revele este concentrado de estilos – jazz alienante, desfocado folclore, vísceras de rock – com subversivos fogachos de coesão e enigmáticos hinos, ocasionalmente desconfortável e rudemente abstrato, mas nunca menos do que uma fascinante assembleia de improvisadores fora de série.

JazzWord review by Ken Waxman

CF 259Angelica Sanchez Quintet – Wires and Moss (CF 259)
Nick Fraser – Towns and Villages (Barnyard Records)
Arriving in New York from his native Tucson in 1995, Tony Malaby has since made his distinctive tenor and soprano saxophone tones part of that city’s scene, both with his own bands and as a sideman – most notably with bassist Mark Helias’ trio. His high- quality improvisations are featured on both these CDs, although he does have much closer ties to one leader than the other.

That’s because pianist Angelica Sanchez, who also composed Wires and Moss’s half-dozen tracks, is Malaby’s spouse, as well as being a respected jazzer in her own right. Another session reflecting her unique vision, the disc unites the two with a top rhythm section of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey plus French guitarist Marc Ducret. A responsive time-keeper who composed all the titles on his CD, Toronto-based drummer Nick Fraser calls on Malaby’s skills more platonically on Canadian Towns and Villages. The distinctiveness of this CD comes from the juxtaposition of his and the saxman’s instruments with those played by two other Toronto-based musicians. The distinctive timbres of Andrew Downing’s cello and Rob Clutton’s bass are both cleverly worked into the arrangements.

A member of the collective quintet Drumheller and the band Ugly Beauties with pianist Marilyn Lerner and cellist Matt Brubeck, the Ottawa-born drummer is so self-effacing that often it’s only clip-clops, bumps or patterns which characterize his accompaniment. Meanwhile a track such as “Albs” is built around a mellow interface that contrasts Malaby’s sweet-and-sour tenor vibrato with Downing’s rich bowed lines and timed thumps from Clutton. Even when the two string players advance contrapuntal whistles and creaks, as on the fully improvised “Sketch #10”, an innate lyricism is still present, with Fraser’s understated ratamacues softening Malaby’s thick sax slurs

In contrast the track that moves this quartet closest to Albert Ayler territory – he used similar instrumentation, but with trumpet as well – is the enigmatically titled “?”. Here Malaby’s pinched blowing and peeping is matched by the bassist’s string sawing and the cellist’s staccato creaks and crackles. While the drummer’s output is more dominant, it seems that his basic taste prevents the tune from blasting into the stratosphere.

Overall however the CD’s most distinctive number is “Sketch #12”, which sums up the fine musical line the quartet walks. The performance is neither completely straight-edged nor fully free form despite Malaby’s narrowed tremolo vibrato, disassociated slurs and reed bites. No matter, the backing stays resolutely linear. A thick walking bass line plus pops and clatters from the drummer sees to this. While there’s curiosity engendered with this clashing of sonic strategies, more excitement could have resulted if the four resolved the situation one way or the other.

Fewer tunes and more front line players distinguish the other session. Although the combo has been together for a half-dozen years, unlike the Fraser-Malaby one-off, a basic tension still exists. Malaby’s chesty moans and concentrated slurs plus Ducret’s ringing tone distortions pull the band in one direction, while Sanchez’s sympathetically and contrapuntally decorated expositions aim for an opposing game plan. With Dress and Rainey forcefully backing up the three, a disconnect between subtle and sinewy is often highlighted. Overall it’s mostly the guitarist who is the spark plug and whose playing is most disruptive to the measured narratives.

Since after all Sanchez composed all the tunes and is session leader, this effect is probably simpatico with her aims, even if it appears to conflict with her sympathetic chording and restrained keyboard dusting. Yet when Ducret’s buzzing, sliding licks on “Dare” give the impression that he`s daring the saxophonist to dispense with his previously lighter-than-air soprano lines and turn to pressurized lip vibrations is this part of Sanchez’s plans? Certainly while she has occasion to showcase a staccato interface with runs from both hands emerging for additional coloration, her main concern is melody building, with the atonal improvising left to others.

Only on the extended “Soaring Piasa” for example, when broken-octave counterpoint is advanced by Malaby’s human-sounding altissimo squeals and muscular Rainey drum ruffs, does the pianist seem intent on taking control of the rhythm section, harmonizing and integrating every other instrumental texture. Again does this pinpoint Sanchez’s collaborative skill or her instrumental shyness?

As it is the unanswered question suggests something is lacking on both sessions. Although each can be listening to with interest, the conciseness of Fraser’s performances plus the resolute linearity of Sanchez’s concepts work against a full loosening of structures and the creation of fully exhilarating dates. Perhaps next time…

Music and More review by Tim Niland

CF 270Ches Smith and These Arches – Hammered (CF 270)
Ches Smith has become a first call jazz drummer over the past few years and in addition to his percussion ability, he has excellent capacity as a composer and a musical conceptualist to match. Developing a large palette of musical colors and rhythms, he creates a wide variety of exciting sounds that are as fresh as they are exciting. This album has Smith on drums and percussion along with Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone, Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Mary Halvorson on guitar and Andrea Parkins on accordion, organ and electronics. Malaby and Berne make of an thrilling front line, whether playing together in harmony or taking off on scalding solo flights. The rest of the band adds excellent texture to the music, with Parkins various instruments framing the soloists and adding sounds that give a new prospective to the music that is being played. She fills in the role that was traditionally filled by bass but is able to provide a much more varied context. Mary Halvorson is typically excellent, lurking like a predator just beneath the surface of the music and then suddenly bursting forth with barbs of jagged electric guitar. I am very enthusiastic about this album, the music is distinctive with non-stop energy and the musicians are supremely talented and bring the music to life with a kaleidoscope of sound.

Downbeat review by Bob Gendron

CF 270


Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

CF 270Ches Smith and These Arches – Hammered (CF 270)
The world of improvised music does not guarantee a predictability. That is what can generate excitement, especially if you are “in on the ground floor,” at the gig or otherwise bearing witness to new sounds, in person or captured in a recording. Ches Smith and These Arches have that “ground floor” feel these days, especially on their new, second release Hammered (Clean Feed 270).  The album features compositions by the leader and the band is of the all-star avant sort: Ches on drums of course, then Tim Berne on alto, Tony Malaby on tenor, Mary Halvorson on guitar and Andrea Parkins on accordion and electronics. Andrea may be a lesser-known member, but her accordion goes a long way to distinguishing this group’s sound.   So what is that sound? It’s avant and very lucid, solid-rock inflected but stratospherically bound. Given the world-class caliber of these improvisers, it is all-over inspired. The compositions and Ches’ forward moving and forward looking drumming give direction and the band follows suit. Sometimes (maybe because of the sound of the accordion but also the compositional spin) it has an almost village folkiness to it, though it gets very outside. If Stravinsky, Hendrix and Dolphy lived in that village, their children might sound like this!!   Everybody has encountered recordings that featured a interesting, even great lineup of players that brought on expectations of great music, then found some disappointment when listening. This is NOT one of those recordings.   There are so many stylistic strains that go into the final makeup of the music, the piecing-together is so well conceived and skillfully executed, yet so unexpected, you need to ear-hear this one a couple of times before you get smitten. And hey, I am smitten with this one.   Ches shows us that he is a bandleader and composer of much talent. I hope this exceptionally supercharged combination of players can keep going as a unit. It is some exceptional sound they conjure before our ears!

All About Jazz Italy review by Alberto Bazzurro

CF 270Ches Smith and These Arches – Hammered (CF 270)
Freschissimo di stampa, ecco il secondo album del gruppo diretto da Ches Smith, dopo Finally Out of My Hands, del 2010. Per l’occasione, si unisce al quartetto-base Tim Berne, e come si capirà facilmente non si tratta di particolare di poco conto. E non è forse neppure il caso di sottolineare che con Berne il giovane batterista ha già inciso il notevolissimo Snakeoil, così come, con Mary Halvorson, un altro dei dischi di spicco della passata stagione, Bending Bridges. Dei gruppi di entrambi Smith fa del resto parte stabilmente. Ecco così che si intuisce come sia certamente il caso di parlare di “cenacolo”. Questo nuovo album non fa che confermarlo. L’iniziale “Frisner,” in verità, risulta meno strutturato dei lavori appena citati (e del resto, più in generale, di quella linea): certe angolosità tipiche di Berne—e in misura minore della Halvorson—appaiono in qualche modo meno sublimate (dall’architettura globale, appunto), nel segno di un incedere che potremmo definire segnato da giovanile baldanza. Una musica sovraffollata, in cui prendono poi il sopravvento, a turno, i sax di Berne e Tony Malaby.

In partenza più lineare, per quanto sempre assai denso, il successivo “Wilson Philip” tende a incresparsi a sua volta, strada facendo, mentre subito più strutturato si annuncia “Dead Battery,” e più ancora “Hammered,” perla dell’incisione, incalzante in avvio e più decongestionato nel segmento centrale, però incamminato verso una tensione montante, persino aggricciata e luciferina, sul finire.

Al breve “Limitations,” di fatto informale, però in possesso di una sua singolare grazia, fa seguito “Learned from Jamie Stewart,” fitto, specie nel rinnovato intrecciarsi delle due ance. Più geometrico—e in ciò, se vogliamo, berniano—”Animal Collection,” che non a caso recupera strada facendo spigolosità care all’altoista di Syracuse, mentre il conclusivo “This Might Be a Fade Out” sfoggia una marcata articolazione tra frammenti più fulminanti, surriscaldati, e lievi (per mole, non per leggerezza) ripiegamenti, benché l’energia ne rimanga l’elemento più palpabile, del brano specifico quanto del disco in generale. Cui magari poteva giovare una migliore messa a fuoco di alcuni passaggi, ma che non per questo può non esser giudicato come il prodotto di un talento limpidissimo.