Saxophonist Tony Malaby squeals, whispers, honks, moans and sobs—all within the first few bars of Tamarindo. It is a promising beginning. The tune, “Buried Head,” is a free-jazz clinic: Three musicians—Malaby is accompanied by bassist William Parker and drummer Nasheet Waits—each improvise unilaterally, but gradually their ideas coalesce and they get in a rhythm. Parker and Waits, two of the best in the game, crank the motor, and Malaby pours in the fuel. Switching between tenor and soprano, he spills forth unexpected clusters of notes. His manner is understated yet dynamic, and he improvises with a sense of melodic structure. He navigates hairpin turns and sharp inclines, and makes it sound easy. “Buried Head” is terribly beautiful.
So it’s a shame about the rest of Tamarindo. Malaby runs out of things to say after that first tune. The musicians circle around one another—tiptoe around one another—on “La Mariposa,” almost as if to say, “No, you go first.” No one does, and nothing but loose strands materializes. Malaby holds some notes excruciatingly long and exactly at the pitch that would cause a pack of wild dogs to howl madly. He repeats patterns ad nauseam: Is it because he thinks that’s effective or because he’s in a rut? Save yourself some cash. Download the first track, and don’t worry about the other five.