Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tony Malaby - Novela - arr. by Kris Davis (Clean Feed, 2011)

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. Novela - arr. by Kris Davis - amazon.com

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