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Tony Malaby Tamarindo: Somos Agua

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Tamarindo is a power trio that takes its time, conserving space and making sagacious use of its outsized collective talent. Tony Malaby sustains oblong notes and deploys silence as well as any saxophonist this side of Roscoe Mitchell, and is fond of building gradual climaxes into his compositions. Bassist William Parker is an unavoidably heavy presence with his enormous pizzicato tone, brilliance with a bow, and indefatigable trailblazing at ground level. He’s expertly complemented by the judicial restraint and strategic fusillades of drummer Nasheet Waits.

While hardly through-composed, Malaby’s songs (which include everything but the closing title track) reflect his experience with the nature of the ensemble, enhancing the trio’s vitality. The opener, “Mule Skinner,” apportions solo space for each member to strut, whereas the next two numbers, “Loretto” and “Matik-Matik,” demonstrate the group’s facility for processional, organically grown cacophony. The best, most ambitious song is “Can’t Find You…,” a 13-minute centerpiece that unfolds like a campfire tale-serpentine, hushed, spooky and a little fantastic. Within its vivid episodes, Parker hovers like an incoming thunderstorm, plucks notes like so many purple plums and screeches with his bow along the same yearning arc as Malaby’s horn. Waits varies the texture from spongy mallet beats to martial snare rolls to whispered cymbals. At one point, Malaby pulls out agonized sounds as if they were newborn calves-and creates the context to make it sound beautiful.

It is probably no coincidence that the final track, credited to all three members, feels aimless in comparison to the rest of the disc. Tamarindo has only put out three records now in a seven-year span, and their previous disc was a live outing in 2010 with guest trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith onboard. Somos Agua demonstrates that the group’s distinctive power-trio relationships can continue to flourish under Malaby’s subtle yet substantial guidance. May they create space in their busy schedules for more frequent sessions and concerts inthe future.

Originally Published