Daily Archives: December 12, 2011

Downbeat review by Frank Alkyers

Tony Malaby – Tony Malaby’s Novela (CF 232)
Saxophonist Tony Malaby is a musician’s musician, a modern composer’s composer. This recording of his new nonet, Tony Malaby’s Novela, proves why he is one of New York’s most beloved creative artists. The 40-something Malaby has been plying his trade in the Big Apple since the mid-’90s, working as a sideman with the likes of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra and Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, as well as leading his own eclectic, spirited groups. But this is his first recorded foray into larger ensemble work as a leader. For Novela, Malaby chose six of his compositions that previously had been recorded by smaller groups. We’ll talk about two here. Arranger and pianist Kris Davis rearranged the tunes for nonet and conducted the group. Warning: This is no smooth jazz, tap-your-toes-and-have-a-wine-cooler tripe. It’s art jazz, thinking jazz, at its best. Novela kicks off with “Floating Head,” which is at once ominous, comical and intriguing. Ralph Alessi delivers a vicious trumpet solo against the dueling eight-note dirge of Joachim Badenhorst’s amazing bass clarinet work. On “Warblepeck,” the squeaks, squawks and wails of the horn section give way to hysterical, toy-like precision percussion by drummer John Hollenbeck and Davis on piano. There’s a section of the tune that feels like horn-fed chaos—acoustic feedback, if you will. Then, right back into the precise work of the horn and rhythm sections. It’s almost machine-like, making me wonder if this is the kind of music Raymond Scott would be making if he were alive today. There are many beautiful moments on this recording, but Malaby’s not content with just beauty. He’s an artist who delivers the full range of human emotions, and this time out, he calls it Tony Malaby’s Novella. It’s worth a serious listen.