Tony Malaby shows off yet another side of himself

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For next week's paper I've written a Critic's Choice about upcoming gigs at the Hungry Brain (10/19) and the Chicago Cultural Center (10/20) by New York saxophonist Tony Malaby, bassist Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten, and drummer Nasheet Waits; in it I discuss two of Malaby's recent trio recordings. What I didn't get around to was his very different Cello Trio, which celebrates the release of a brand-new album called Warblepeck (Songlines) Wednesday night at the Hideout. It was recorded earlier this year with percussionist John Hollenbeck (Claudia Quintet) and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, who'll both join Malaby here.

The album alternates between tender, lyric pieces and open-ended exercises, and aside from tunes by Bill Frisell, Angelica Sanchez, and Eivind Opsvik, Malaby composed everything. Throughout it's marked by exquisite attention to textural intricacies, from the puckers and pops Malaby wrings from his saxophones to the delicate melodic counterpoint Hollenbeck lays down on xylophone, marimba, or glockenspiel (sometimes while drumming).

On the freest tracks the trio exercises great restraint, displaying a highly refined level of interaction in its feather-stroke give-and-take. Though I've heard plenty of players in similar contexts get so polite and tentative that the music shrivels up, here the silence and space carry as much energy as the loud, visceral passages. And they're pretty loud: on "Remolino" Lonberg-Holm scrapes at his amplified cello to produce screaming Hendrix-worthy freak-outs and Hollenback bashes and slams his kit in a cymbal-heavy barrage with the force of a Hawaiian pipeline.

The huge distance between these two extremes helps the group keep things lively and varied. The three players work in pretty disparate scenes these days--Malaby mostly in freebop contexts, Lonberg-Holm in sometimes woolly, sometimes introspective free improv, and Hollenbeck in increasingly composition-oriented settings--which gives the group a big palette. But each musician can also operate comfortably in either of his partners' area of specialization.

Today's playlist:

Fanfara Tirana, Albanian Wedding (Piranha)
Lafayette Gilchrist, Soul Progressin' (Hyena)
Dead C., Secret Earth (Ba Da Bing)
Wayne Shorter, Native Dancer (Columbia)
Bill Frisell, History, Mystery (Nonesuch)

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