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Angelica Sanchez

Pianist and composer Angelica Sanchez knew that things weren’t exactly happening for her in Tempe, Ariz. She was already plugged into the small jazz community that existed there but at the same time she and her husband, tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby, both yearned to break out and pursue the kind of renegade strains of jazz that beckoned from New York City’s Downtown scene. “We were living out there and trying to play creative music, which is nearly impossible,” she says. “The scene is a little more relaxed, and you’re not always challenged. You can be, but it’s something you really have to look for.”

So when the opportunity to move to New York City fell into their laps in 1995, Tony and Angelica jumped on it. As she recalls, “Our good friend, a trumpet player who had been subletting an apartment in New York City for 20 years, called us out of the blue one day to say, ‘Hey, you guys want my pad? You can have it.’ So I said to Tony, ‘Let’s go. Let’s get outta here! This is a sign!'”

Today Sanchez and Malaby have found their niche playing in the City’s creative music venues. And with simultaneous releases out-Malaby’s ferocious second outing Apparations on Songlines (with the two-drummer tandem of Tom Rainey and Michael Sarin augmented by bassist Drew Gress) and Sanchez’s stunning debut, Mirror Me on Omnitone (with Malaby on tenor sax, Michael Formanek on bass and Rainey on drums)-they now rate as the most intriguing music-making couple since Paul and Carla Bley. Sanchez’s provocative, fully realized debut-full of Cecil Taylor-esque pyrotechnics and showcasing a flair for counterpoint, evocative harmonies and open-ended forms-marks her as a formidable talent.

Sanchez’s move to New York eight years ago has not only altered her life in a day-to-day sense, it’s changed her whole perspective on composing and music-making as well. “You’re exposed to so many different things here, and I’m just constantly getting kicked in the ass by all the things that completely inspire me here, whether it’s seeing the Paul Motian trio or the Martial Solal trio at the Village Vanguard or Pierre Boulez at Lincoln Center or a Benjamin Britten opera at the Met or an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. You can’t get that anywhere else in the world. So in that way I think Tony and I grew here as musicians much faster than we would’ve back home.”

Originally Published