Friday, April 1, 2011

Tony Malaby's Tamarindo Live!

Soprano-Tenorman Tony Malaby has been getting around much of late, appearing as a sideman or co-leader on quite a few dates, and putting together some very worthy sides as a leader. I'm now catching up with his latest, out a month or so, Tony Malaby's Tamarindo Live (Clean Feed 200). It certainly has clout and brilliance aplenty. There's Tony, the bass master himself--Mr. William Parker, a drive-and-bash specialist in drummer Nasheet Waits, and one of the most creative and prolific trumpet wielders active today, Mr. Leo Smith. "OK," you might say, "You don't need to say anything more." Ah, but words-r-us here, so I will go on.

Tamarindo isn't just a gathering of some heavy cats, an all-star avantiana. No. It's the ever-shifting variety of combinations and moods that makes this music especially brilliant. Trumpet and bass have a moment to reflect, then drums and trumpet give the moment a little more linear expansiveness, then sax-bass-drums get kicking, and on from there, to give an example.

Each player has something good to say, the ideas flow, the scene changes, something new pops in. It's a cliche to say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and it is also not entirely true. The sum of the parts of this quartet date are great to begin with and nobody becomes something other than who they are as players. Yet still there is some kinetic transformation that takes place, as in any great group improvisational moment, that brings the music onto another level. It happens here frequently.

I recently heard a tape of Coltrane practicing "Oleo" from around 1956. It was fascinating. Ultimately though he was running some ideas through with a thought to what ways around the changes he could devise. Hear him do it with the classic Miles group and there's much more in the way of emphatic speech-making going on. Tamarindo caught live is about the same thing. These are heavy cats speechifying, making musical statements in a collective zone, rather than kind of mumbling through some various ideas as one might do in practice.

And the opposite side of the coin is when players become too concerned with what an audience expects them to do, so that playing in a live situation becomes almost a matter of them playing at playing themselves, each playing a role as an actor that represents himself, but is not actually that self. Perhaps some of the moments of JATP have that quality on occasion, and I think it is not ideal for the best improvisation.

Tamarindo Live has neither of those tendencies--tentativeness or too much of a meta-self-awareness (perhaps a fancy way of saying that somebody is "hamming it up.")

The point though is the four masters that make up Tamarindo on this disk are making definitive collective statements on some un-expressible subject. They may repeat themselves (as a musical way to proceed), they may backtrack or "change the subject," but what they are doing has conviction, pacing, eloquence and drama. And I believe that great improvisation, free or otherwise--whatever that might mean, has those qualities. All four of these players have been musicians to watch for a long time. When they get together as Tamarindo and selected other gatherings, they are THERE. Watch for some other cats; Malaby-Parker-Waits-Smith are doing what you were watching for in the first place!


  1. Nice review, and well put also.

    We (I) reviewed it on Free Jazz Blog a few months ago and we got many e-mails talking about the sound quality. I was rather flabbergasted as it seemed that some people were so used to super squeaky clean recordings that the forgot to listen to the music on the CD. Yes, the recording quality wasn't 'so' good - and there's a story behind that - but the music I thought was excellent.

  2. Thanks for your comments joesh. I was not bothered at all by the recording quality--it is not perfect but the state-of-the-art recording is not what it once was either. What's important to me is that every part comes through in a balanced way. Recordings differ do drastically depending on what systems they are played through. The CD sounded quite alright to me on my main system, lousy on my computer--and many things do. If one's equipment accentuates some frequencies over others, then what you hear can be very different than what is heard on other systems. I've found that the systems that have tiny treble speakers and a booming subwoofer don't do well reproducing music outside of rock, rap, pop and electric music in general. A system that has lousy mid-range reproduction does not do well with acoustic music, where mid-range is so important. They accentuate any problems a recording might have to begin with. I am a little surprised that you had so many comments. I found the recording perfectly adequate in sound quality. I generally don't address those issues unless they are grating to me or the sound is exceptional. This disk still sounds better than some of the early free disks on, say, BYG! Thanks for your input man!

  3. I really like tamarindo culture thanks for sharing

  4. Thank you Glenn. I feel the same way!