Tag Archives: Novela

Squid´s Ear review by Florence Wetzl

Tony Malaby – Novela (CF 232)
For his new CD Novela, saxophonist Tony Malaby made an interesting choice: he decided to cull six of his compositions from previous releases and present them afresh. This time he’s working with a new set of musicians and has greater intimacy with the tunes, but the biggest difference is that each piece has been given a fresh arrangement by pianist Kris Davis, who has channeled her inner Gil Evans in order to create exciting configurations that make the songs shine anew.

Malaby has plenty of experience playing with larger groups, including Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra and Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, and this knowledge has clearly informed his facility as a bandleader. He elicits excellent performances from Novela’s mega-powerful nonet, a group composed of Malaby on soprano and tenor sax, the excellent Michael Attias on alto sax, Andrew Hadro on baritone sax, Joachim Badenhorst on bass clarinet, Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Ben Gerstein on trombone, Dan Peck on tuba, Davis on piano and conducting, and John Hollenbeck on drums and percussion.

The first song, “Floating Head,” exemplifies the virtues of this CD. The music is fast, bold, and powerful, the arrangement full of delicious swoops of impeccably synchronized instruments. There are many delightful layers of sounds and textures in this song, many unexpected accents and shifts, but although the music is positively thick with ideas, everything is still tastefully executed. One of the pleasures of this piece is hearing Dan Peck’s tuba, an instrument that eminent arrangers such as Evans and Claude Thornhill used with great inventiveness; the tuba creates a rich bottom for the entire piece, stretching both the song and the listener’s ear. Davis is fabulous on piano: her angular, agile approach keeps the music on its toes and ignites the entire tune.

Mention must also be made of the excellent “Warblepeck.” It’s a playful, lilting song with funky sax work by Malaby and fabulous percussion by Hollenbeck. The arrangement incorporates a marvelous polyrhythmic drive, and includes some wild slippy-slidey horn work that creates a positively joyful cacophony.

At the first public performance of his Birth of the Cool nonet, Miles Davis broke tradition (as usual) by insisting that the sign in front of the club read: “Arrangements by Gerry Mulligan, Gil Evans, and John Lewis.” Likewise, it’s impossible to extol the virtues of Novela without noting: “Arrangements by Kris Davis.” It’s heartening to see that the art of arranging is still going strong in the jazz tradition, and Malaby’s excellent CD shines a light for others to follow.


Music is More reviews by Tim Niland

Tony Malaby – Novela – arr. by Kris Davis (CF 232)
Looking both forward and backward, saxophonist and composer Tony Malaby revisits some of his earlier compositions in a new setting, a nonet arranged by up and coming pianist and arranger Kris Davis. The larger band allows for a much wider palette of colors, and Davis uses them very well from tuba and bass clarinet at the low end to soprano saxophone at the high end. This cornucopia of shading and texture brings a new level of detail to the compositions, and there is a palpable sense of discovery in the musicians playing. Besides Malaby and Davis, the band consists of Andrew Hadro on baritone saxophone, Ben Gerstein on trombone, Dan Peck on tuba, Joachim Badenhorst on bass clarinet, John Hollenbeck on drums, Michael Attias on alto saxophone and Ralph Alessi on trumpet. Highlights are the music are many but the leadoff track “Floating Head” (one of my favorites from the Tamarindo LP) begins with ominous low-sounding horns. Developing into a theme filled with musical color, strong full band make way for a ripe saxophone solo accompanied by bright sounding piano. Soprano saxophone, and a strong rhythm section juxtapose low tones against strong trumpet. “Floral and Herbaceous” has a slower and question feel, looking for musical answers amongst the silence. Building a raw, guttural saxophone feature and playing if off against percussion and other horns gives the music great texture and context. A slower movement builds to an intense section that leads to an unsettling conclusion. Saxophone and percussion flutter at the beginning of “Warblepeck” contrasted by a cartoon-ish percussion or electronics (hard to tell which.) The horns and reeds develop a near march like feel that is worldly, colorful and a lot of fun. Slow and spacious, “Mother’s Love” is the ballad of the set with horns and saxes set afloat in spacetime. Haunted, rolling bass clarinet and bells keep the music subtle. This was a very interesting work, allowing the listener to not only hear the talents of this excellent group of musicians, but learn about Malaby as a composer and especially Davis as an arranger of considerable talent. Hopefully someday soon she will get a grant to allow her to develop a big band project all her own.

Tomajazz review by Pachi Tapiz

Kris Davis Aeriol Piano (CF 233)
Tony Malaby Novela (CF 232)

Entre las grabaciones publicadas por el sello portugués Clean Feed durante los últimos meses destaca Aeriol Piano, primera grabación en solitario de la joven pianista canadiense Kris Davis. Una artista con una discografía no muy abundante, pero que ya se había hecho notar con CD como Paradoxical Frog (en Clean Feed) o con Anti-House (Intakt) de la saxofonista Ingrid Laubrock. El disco es uno de los más interesantes en este formato de los publicados en los últimos meses. Quizás como una declaración de principios, el disco comienza con una versión del clásico “All The Things You Are” que Davis va construyendo desde fuera (lo improvisado), hacia dentro (la reconocible melodía del tema). Le siguen unas creaciones que aparecen sumamente trabajadas y muestran un universo fascinante. Aunque en algún momento su música puede parecer cercana a las creaciones para artilugios mecánicos de creadores como Conlon Nancarrow (aunque sin el virtuosismo humanamente imposible de ese compositor), en otros recuerda en su lentitud y melancolía a la música de Federico Mompou. En una situación opuesta, hay temas en los que se muestra sumamente intensa en su virtuosismo.

La pianista también aparece en el CD Novela del saxofonista Tony Malaby. Además de tocar su instrumento, se encarga de los arreglos de las seis composiciones. Tony Malaby es uno de esos saxofonistas que suelen pasar desapercibidos ante el gran público, y que sin embargo tiene tras de sí una discografía muy consistente. En esta ocasión graba en directo una colección de temas que ya había publicado anteriormente, aunque la principal novedad es el gran grupo que le acompaña. Por allí están el trompetista Ralph Alessi, el baterista y percusionista John Hollenbeck (de Claudia Quintet entre otros grupos, o acompañante de Meredith Monk). Llama también la atención una formación con una potente sección de vientos integrada por tres saxofones (soprano y tenor, alto, y barítono), clarinete bajo, trombón, trompeta y tuba, más piano y batería – percusión. Los temas son un placer auditivo de principio a fin. Si en uno sobresalen el trombón y la tuba (por poner un ejemplo), en el siguiente lo hacen los arreglos. Si en otro momento los solos son la parte importante, a continuación la música nos atrapa distribuida en distintas secciones. También es destacable los diferentes caracteres que toman las piezas, yendo de lo más directo y animado, a lo más abstracto y aparentemente árido. Kris Davis demuestra con estos dos discos que es otra de esas grandes nuevas pianistas que están irrumpiendo en la escena, alguien a quien habrá que seguir con mucha atención.

New York Times review for Novela´s CD launch by Nate Chinen

Roiling Through an Undertow

Tony Malaby  (tenor and soprano saxophone), Ben Gerstein (trombone), Joachim Badenhorst (bass clarinet), Dan Peck (tuba), Michaël Attias (alto saxophone), Andrew Hadro (baritone saxophone) and Ralph Alessi (trumpet) at Jazz Gallery.

The tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby has a burly but beseeching tone, and in his own bands he often pushes toward an amiable ruckus. Novela, the nine-piece band he presented at the Jazz Gallery on Sunday night, takes this predilection to its logical extreme. Drawing from “Novela” (Clean Feed), an album released in September, the group played a sprawling set of faintly episodic, heavily textured music, pausing only a couple of times to re-establish a center of gravity. The distinctive color of Mr. Malaby’s voice, on soprano as well as tenor, was often lost on a crowded canvas. He seemed totally fine with that.

To some extent “Novela” is a retrospective for him: its repertory consists of reworked compositions from albums going back almost 20 years. What gives this album its own identity is the lineup of timbres, with three saxophones, along with bass clarinet, trumpet, trombone, tuba, piano and drums. All the arrangements are by the pianist and composer Kris Davis, a longtime associate of Mr. Malaby.

Periodically during the first set Ms. Davis left her piano bench to conduct the ensemble, usually during a slow-dawning, expectant ballad. Her voicings tended to suggest a troubled serenity, with chords full of close intervals for the horn-and-reeds brigade. “Floating Head,” the set opener, had a strong, brackish undertow, with tuba, baritone saxophone and bass clarinet puffing a vamp in triple meter; the rest of the ensemble played a sprightly polyrhythm, moving against the grain. The ideal seemed to be a classic Charles Mingus roil, knockabout but self-assured. It didn’t quite get there.

The uncertain feeling in the set’s first half probably had something to do with all the free improvisation that cropped up within the tunes. Which isn’t a knock on the playing. One potent scramble near the end of “Floating Head” involved just Dan Peck, on tuba, and Ben Gerstein, on trombone. A full-ensemble blast, near the end of “Floral and Herbaceous,” delivered some sharp disorientation, a cacophony of whinnies and squeals. And a duet between Ms. Davis and the alto-saxophonist Michaël Attias was full of reflective tension and sly allusions to the chord changes of “All the Things You Are.”

What really worked, on a full-band basis, was the twinkling delirium of “Warblepeck,” with the drummer John Hollenbeck hammering toylike mallet-percussion instruments, and the trumpeter Ralph Alessi soloing above the fray. Something even more compellingly feverish came at the set’s close: “Remolino,” an incantation in the spirit of Albert Ayler, with everyone in the band intoning the melodic line as one.

Soon after that collective fanfare had passed, the band moved on to a sinuous groove in 5/4 meter, and Mr. Malaby took an impassioned soprano-saxophone solo, building his argument around the shape of the melody. It was woolly but coherent: his most unambiguous showcase of the set, and the one that threw the whole picture into focus.

All About Jazz Italy review by Gigi Sabelli

Tony Malaby – Novela (CF 232)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
Il nuovo lavoro del talentuoso Malaby – che si conferma anche qui una delle voci più notevoli del nuovo panorama jazz americano – è un affresco dai numerosi colori opachi in cui spiccano le belle idee della pianista Kris Davis, che ha firmato tutti gli arrangiamenti. La vasta strumentazione (sette fiati, piano e batteria) viene usata secondo diverse soluzioni e abbinamenti timbrici, che finiscono per creare con straordinaria originalità paesaggi sonori del tutto inusuali e diversificati o brani in cui l’improvvisazione e le diverse costruzioni timbriche sfociano in più temi lungo la stessa traccia.

Difficile fare una disamina precisa del disco, talmente sono i registri in gioco, gli strumenti e per il grado di osmosi tra temi e improvvisazioni, ma si possono fare comunque degli esempi parziali ma eloquenti: nell’iniziale “Floating Head” un chorus in sei ottavi si sfalda in una libertà granulosa lasciando spazio a numerosi innesti di fiati; in “Cosas” il pindarico solo di sax alto sfocia in un dialogo libero con tutti gli altri strumenti che poi si compattano in un’orchestra architettata tra geometrie tradizionali su un tempo latineggiante; in “Remolino” i due mood che si incontrano sono una sgangherata fanfara e un inquietante temino noir costruito su note minori di pianoforte.

Anche sul piano strumentale Malaby sembra aver poco da invidiare a chiunque: il suo tenore è corposo, doloroso e vitale allo stesso tempo, mentre al soprano ha un fraseggio ritmicamente inesauribile e in perenne contrasto col tessuto su cui si innesta.

Come è sempre successo sin dai tempi del free (di cui gran parte dei dischi della Clean Feed sembrano proporre alcune tra le più credibili evoluzioni), l’impegno richiesto all’ascoltatore è notevole, ma in questo caso lo è anche il grado di intelligenza e di profondità per decibel con cui si è ripagati.

Time Out Chicago Best of 2011 list by Areif Sless-Kitain

My aim with this year’s roundup was to assemble a list without regard to geography, so I’m either terribly biased or it was just a happy coincidence that Chicago players (past and present) appear on at least half of these albums. Then again, given the collaborative nature of the jazz world, there’s really only a degree or two of separation at most between any of these improvisers. Many (Dawkins, King, Malaby, Mazurek, Taborn) have performed here within the past year, and it’s safe to say the rest have passed through town in the year or so before that. Except Ambrose Akinmusire. Perhaps we can persuade Joe Segal, Michael Orlove or the Umbrella fellas to bring that guy out here in 2012.

1. Amir El Saffar Inana (Pi Recordings)
Chicago native El Saffar folds meditative improvisations into Middle Eastern modes, wedding Western music and Iraqi maqam in a cross-cultural exchange that’s hypnotic and utterly unique.

2. Ambrose Akinmusire When the Heart Emerges Glistening (Blue Note) The title suggests romance, but the breakout trumpeter aims instead for the stars on his Blue Note debut with heat-seaking chromatic flights.

3. Matana Roberts COIN COIN Chapter One: Gens de couleur libres Constellation) Former Velvet Lounge regular Roberts captures her concept-rooted narrative in a concert that’s more performance art than postbop, a powerful and provocative monument both to her ancestry and the jazz tradition.

4. Craig Taborn Avenging Angel (ECM)
The pianist turns in a delicate solo date for ECM that has him searching for answers under each of the 88 keys.

5. Peter Evans Quintet Ghosts (More Is More Records)
A joyous bop skewering that lives up to its name, filtered through an electronic prism. Sam Pluta’s real-time refractions haunt an album that would otherwise be surprisingly straight-ahead.

6. Matt Bauder Day in Pictures (Clean Feed)
Elegant originals from a former Chicagoan, whose dynamic quintet features some of NYC’s most daring players including pianist Angelica Sanchez and erstwhile rodan/Heaven Gallery fixture Jason Ajemian on bass.

7. Ernest Dawkins’ New Horizons Ensemble The Prairie Prophet (Delmark) A fond farewell to Fred Anderson that swings as fiercely and fearlessly as you’d expect of any group operating under the AACM credo.

8. Tony Malaby Novela (Clean Feed)
Rising pianist Kris Davis handles the ominous arrangements for this ambitious nonet, rooting through Malaby’s back catalogue and re-imagining it for multiple reeds and brass.

9. São Paulo Underground Tres Cabeças Loucuras (Cuneiform)
Rob Mazurek returns to Brazil and floats his cool blue cornet over a spellbinding collage of saturated textures, syncopated rhythms and sundry electronics.

10. Dave King Trucking Company Good Old Light (Sunnyside)
The name suggests weigh stations rather than woodshedding, but the Bad Plus drummer’s latest vehicle is a lot more nuanced than you might expect, thanks in part to an impressive twin sax front line.

Point of Departure review by Troy Collins

Kris Davis  – Aeriol Piano (CF 233

Tony Malaby –
Novela  (CF 232)

Canadian-born pianist Kris Davis’ student days intriguingly foreshadow her future endeavors: classical studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music; two summers at the Banff Centre for the Arts’ jazz program, where she met future collaborator Tony Malaby; then, moving to New York City to study composition with Jim McNeely. Her subsequent associations with peers like John Hollenbeck and Ingrid Laubrock, as well as her membership in collectives such as Paradoxical Frog and the RIDD Quartet, have developed in tandem with her own varied projects.

Aeriol Piano is her first unaccompanied outing. The solo recital has long been considered the ultimate proving ground for pianists; encouraging the broadest dynamic range from a performer, it captures every nuance of an artist’s expressive capabilities. From a respectfully abstract linear reading of Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are” and a handful of fully improvised miniatures to the ambitious “Saturn Return,” Davis explores the full potential of her instrument, both inside and out.

A product of her influences, Davis seamlessly incorporates lessons learned from disparate sources, adapting the dissonant intervals of Cecil Taylor, probing lyricism of Paul Bley and understated minimalism of Morton Feldman into a singular style largely devoid of the clichés of the jazz tradition, such as block chords or left-handed bass lines. Though capable of summoning turbulent salvos for dramatic effect, it is her ability to craft poetic melodies from oblique lyrical fragments – infusing heady abstraction with heartfelt beauty – that is her most impressive talent. The prepared piano opus “Saturn Return” takes this aesthetic a step further, serving as the conceptual centerpiece of the record. An episodic rumination through various stylistic precedents, Davis builds from romantic musings to thunderous drama before embarking on a lyrical exposition that draws equally from aleatoric experimentation and minimalist formalism.

Davis’ growing talent as a composer and improviser is well documented, but her skills as an arranger and conductor have been largely unheard, until now. Tony Malaby’s Novela features Davis’ multifaceted arrangements of six Malaby-penned compositions originally conceived for trio and/or quartet. Davis’ working relationship with Malaby dates back 10 years, to the formation of her longstanding quartet. In the ensuing years Malaby has explored a variety of instrumental line-ups to extend the breadth of his eclectic writing, from bare-bones acoustic trios to electrified quartets. Novela is his most extravagant creation yet, a horn-heavy nonet that combines the unfettered zeal of a riotous street band and the tonal sensitivity of a chamber ensemble.

The session consists entirely of previously recorded compositions; two even date back to Sabino (Arabesque), his 2000 debut as a leader. Although presumably selected for the sake of expediency, these six tunes provide Davis the opportunity to demonstrate her knack for transposing skeletal themes into intricate symphonic tone poems, revealing a previously undocumented talent in the process. Davis’ urbane charts subtly hint at her studies with McNeely, tracing a line back through the innovations of George Schuller and George Russell. They also conjure memories of the loft era, with zany march motifs and manic collective improvisations that owe as much to Muhal Richard Abrams and Anthony Braxton as they do Raymond Scott.

Opening with brooding intensity, “Floating Head” features contrapuntal horn formations churning like storm clouds gathering in pursuit of the leader’s evasive soprano. “Floral and Herbacious” follows, blossoming into a cornucopia of dynamic ensemble shifts led by Ralph Alessi’s melancholy trumpet and Joachim Badenhorst’s caterwauling bass clarinet. After a dramatic exchange between Dan Peck’s bleating multiphonic tuba (played with a tenor saxophone mouthpiece) and his section mates, the ensemble swells behind Malaby’s rhapsodic tenor, concluding an excursion as quixotic as the surreal sonic travelogue “Mother’s Love.” The influence of Raymond Scott is heard in the quirky “Warblepeck,” which rivals “Remolino” for pure capriciousness. The former tune demonstrates the nonet’s capacity for rhythmic fervor as well as orchestral color, counterbalancing pneumatic horn charts with John Hollenbeck’s kaleidoscopic percussion accents. Davis’ spacious arrangements repeatedly reveal a penchant for such dramatic pairings; she isolates Michael Attias’ diaphanous alto at the outset of “Cosas,” stages a garrulous duet between Peck’s tuba and Ben Gerstein’s trombone during the coda of “Floating Head” and joins Peck and baritone saxophonist Andrew Hadro for a riotous trio interlude on the madcap closer, “Remolino.”

While Davis is more than just an arranger here – she also conducts the horns and plays piano – ultimately, the star of the show is Malaby, whose unbound expressionism continues to push further and further beyond conventional tonal extremes with each release. Inspired to lofty heights by Davis’ opulent charts, Tony Malaby’s Novela is one of the saxophonist’s most compelling efforts to date.