It’s not difficult to discern why Tony Malaby’s new album is called Warblepeck. Bird sounds are clearly referenced throughout, approximated less by Malaby’s tenor and soprano saxophones and more by the cello and electronic manipulation of Fred Lonberg-Holm and the panoply of percussive toys employed by the versatile drummer John Hollenbeck.
What a wildly diverse collection of tunes that constitute Warblepeck. The title track, which opens the disc, recalls the soundtrack to Black Orpheus, its sambalike 6/8 rhythm underpinned by layers of percussion and punctuated by short bursts from Malaby’s tenor. He takes a different tack on the brief “Jackhat 1,” blowing long screeches over Hollenbeck’s xylophone plinks and Lonberg-Holm’s electronic chirping. Lonberg-Holm gets a good deal of variety from his cello across the album: bowing, plucking, sawing with electric distortion. He’ll sound like Yo-Yo Ma on “Waiting Inside” and Jimi Hendrix on “Two Shadows.”
Warblepeck is all about creating on the spot and flying without a map, and the tune called “Fly on Wall/Remolino” offers a study in how a group of musicians can get from point A to point B by feel. Here the quietest sounds evolve into pandemonium, ever so gradually, so that the listener barely notices the change. The same idea belies “Sky Church,” an open-ended piece that starts off with a little call-and-response between cello and sax before growing rowdy amid the restrained chaos of shuffling cymbals, a scraped snare, and Malaby’s gruff, excited blowing. The music of Warblepeck was created in the moment, but it will be remembered, and played, for a long, long time.