Tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby's debut as a leader ventures deep into the avant-garde but stays in contact with the sensibilities of mainstream jazz. With Marc Ducret on guitar, Michael Formanek on bass, and Tom Rainey on drums, Malaby has chosen players remarkably well suited to his fairly aggressive compositional and playing style. Much like Bill Frisell and Ben Monder, Ducret provides colorful, reverberating chordal and single-note textures but can also turn on a dime and blast off with fuzztone solos and noise-guitar pyrotechnics. Formanek and Rainey make for a simpatico rhythm section if there ever was one; both steeped in post-bop vocabulary, they're equally able to step well outside of it. And Malaby, a whirlwind of tonal and rhythmic intensity, lets listeners have it with multiphonic flurries and screams held together with tightly executed melodic lines. His compositions tend toward rubato, tension-filled themes such as "Mia" and "Remolino/Hamza." But the title track, a lyrical waltz, shows another side, as do "Cosas" and the closing ballad "Love Dogs." The loping Latin-rock opener, "Ajo Comino," features some of Malaby's most achingly urgent yet accessible playing.
There's a slight Spanish tinge to many of the melodies, reflecting Malaby's Mexican-American heritage and imbuing the album with a highly unique mood.