Live has no business being so dull. The Tamarindo quartet comprises four bottomless wells of talent (tenor/soprano saxophonist Tony Malaby, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, bassist William Parker and drummer Nasheet Waits), joining here in a free session at the Jazz Gallery, one of New York’s most avant-friendly venues. It has all the right ingredients, but it lacks both energy and direction, is sometimes incoherent and often just spins its wheels.
What’s most frustrating is that each of the four long tracks offers a glimpse of real inspiration and then throws it away. On the opening “Buoyant Boy,” Malaby follows a shockingly disconnected Smith solo with a strident soprano that locks immediately into Parker and Waits’ groove. But the synergy doesn’t result in compelling lines or even isolated phrases. Smith adopts that same role on “Death Rattle,” and even momentarily sparks Malaby. But they only fade into raspy sighs that resemble distant, listless foghorns more than death rattles. It’s the sound of wasted opportunity.
The energy deficit in what we’re hearing can also be attributed to the sound, which is one step up from bootleg quality. (Clearly no microphones were onstage this night.) It robs the music of not just fidelity, but also urgency: How exciting is a band that sounds like it’s in the other room? Parker has it the worst. The other instruments’ natural volume frequently buries the unamplified bass, and on “Jack the HAT With Coda” it gets lost entirely. Waits has the opposite problem—his sound overwhelms everyone else’s. Sometimes off-nights, and off-projects, just happen.