Tony Malaby Tamarindo – Somos Agua (CF 304)
While Tony Malaby has many outlets for his burly tenor saxophone, few of them pack the visceral heft of Tamarindo, the outfit crewed by bassist William Parker and drummer Nasheet Waits. Malaby hit paydirt with the trio’s eponymous 2007 debut, built on that success by adding trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith for a somewhat murky live recording in 2010, but has now reverted to the original lineup for the band’s third album, Somos Agua. It’s every bit the match for its illustrious forebears. Heads tend to be sketchy affairs, which only serve to get the real business underway – a series of cohesive collective outbursts.
Malaby is a monster, restlessly creative through all the registers of his horn, from earthy honks to fluent overblowing. But what makes him so fascinating is
that the undoubted power is leavened by a willingness to enlist any resource, whether muffled snorts, hoarse whistles, multiphonic shrieks or querulous wavering cries. Whatever works. Parker has the savvy to follow wherever Malaby roams, able to turn on a dime from gargantuan propulsion to bravura swipes of the bow while Waits blends crisp articulation at high tempos with a playbook of ever-changing rhythmic patterns.
At first blush each of the seven cuts sounds part of an unfettered blowing session, but after repeated listens barely discernible melodic themes become apparent, which briefly surface from the organic ebb and flow (not always at the outset) and fuel further group exploration. Neither tone nor time pass as absolutes in Tamarindo’s universe, shifting unpredictably and stretching or compressing elastically. Malaby forges a particularly strong connection to Parker, manifest most notably on the lengthy discursive conversation between the pair on “Bitter Dream”. But bass and drums don’t always shadow the saxophone, creating a quicksilver threepart counterpoint emerging from more conventional trio transactions. Malaby clearly understands the paradox that it takes a really tight unit to play this loose yet still keep focus.