lots of great music discoveries this weekend...
tony malaby is a reed player (tenor and soprano sax) whose name i've increasingly seen mentioned in "inside/outside" contexts (meaning a player comfortable working both inside and outside conventional chord changes and tonalities) and a few of whose discs i've picked up though they hadn't made a very marked impression on me. i picked up sabino largely because of the members of his backing band -- marc ducret, who i've heard play some mean guitar with tim berne; michael formanek, a stalwart bass player on the downtown NYC scene; and tom rainey, another solid member of the tim berne crowd. it didn't do much for me: very restrained all around. then i picked up adobe, which boasted another dynamite rhythm section, drew gress on bass and paul motian on drums. this one i was warm to immediately, perhaps in part because it opens with a cover of ornette coleman's "humpty dumpty." while never really cooking at full boil, this record simmers along very nicely throughout and still left me wondering where the "outside" was gonna come in.
well, tone collector (malaby, right; bassist eivind opsvik, middle; and drummer jeff davis, left) came to an die musik in baltimore saturday night (and will be at sangha cafe in takoma park on october 17 and for the ars nova workshop in philly two days later), and this is easily malaby at his most outside, their self-titled disk (on the norwegian jazzaway label) easily the most enjoyable of malaby's recordings i've heard to date. (read michael mccaw's review for allaboutjazz.)
joe lovano and joe henderson are frequently mentioned in that "inside/outside" context too, and if forced to i'd place malaby somewhere between the two, perhaps closer to the latter since i have yet to hear the appeal of lovano. in fact, malaby has a different palette of sounds and tone colors than henderson, even though both of them start from a sort of rollins-esque fullness of tone. i always think of henderson as maybe what would happen if you centered rollins between the thin, light tone and attack of lester young and the barking upper register trills of sam rivers. (i know this may not make sense, but it does somehow to me). malaby is somewhere in here too, perhaps, but even more relaxed and open.
restraint is the watchword in this group, but the sound wonders they work within their chosen range. in fact the words "restraint" and "range" are the perfectly appropriate pairing because the group does indeed range broadly and freely. opsvik walks strong and long but never in a fixed groove, and at one point 2/3 of the way through the first his arco work ran interference on malaby's buzztones and davis' minigongs in stop-time holds that reminded me of feldman's late works. davis seemed to attack the kit from awkward hand positions and yet this was always with the goal of coaxing forth some new muted taps. malaby sways sideways and searches for new twists in the run, no need to blast because the energy is already there, concentrated. this was a thoroughly and enjoyably exhausting pair of sets, the second one on the house since there were only 9 people in the audience for the first (18 for the second including a few repeats besides me and ryan). i'm telling you people, come out come out or bernard's gonna get fed up and quit bringing us this shit!
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picked up sound grammar, the first new CD in 9 years by the 76-year old ornette coleman. this is a live show from ludwigshafen germany in 2005, with a quartet that features his son denardo on drums and two bassists, greg cohen (pizzicato) and tony falanga (arco). i'd heard some of these shows already and been extremely impressed, so this new CD was highly anticipated. there's no letdown here, ornette soars. the basses really provide the grounding, denardo chatters along midrange and up. mostly new material but three reworkings of previous tunes, "turnaround" going all the way back before the classic atlantic recordings to the tomorrow is the question. there is also "song x" from the album with pat metheny (one i still, unexplainably, don't own and have never heard), but the biggest surprise and treat is probably "sleeptalking," which ran as "sleep talk" on the 1978 recording with the prime time group, of human feelings. there it's played at a medium-fast with a kinda stiff fusion-techno feel to it; here it's stretched out to a beautful ballad, such that the little "sacre du printemps" opening lick becomes one of coleman's most soulful melodies since "lonely woman." this is one of the great masters in his prime folks.
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also some pleasant surprises in the form of history is what's happening (1982) and joggers & smoggers (1989), two CDs by the ex, a dutch post-punk band still going strong after nearly thirty years. think of the brittle angularity of gang of four with the anarcho-communalist (or in this case socialist) aesthetic of crass who go on to forge working relationships with sonic youth and the dutch free jazz scene. these are dutch import CDs that i snagged at regular used prices (amazon currently has a copy of joggers for $90, suckers!) and that will be on heavy rotation in the short run.