In as appropriate an attribution as could be stated, Tony Malaby thanks his bandmates John Hollenbeck, Tom Rainey, and Drew Gress "for flying and soaring." Exacting in theory, the group with a moniker Apparitions should aspire to this concept of gliding, swooping, and focused music, with no small share of matte finish to go along with the pithy improvisations that appear, then fade into the mist. There's but an elemental inference to the Voladores, the ritual dance of Papantla's flyers performed by the Totonac and Olmeca of Veracruz, Mexico. Under the surface, you can hear a mountainous, high-altitude attitude that mixes earth tones with plowshares, hard work and the organic lifestyle of South America. But in the main, Malaby's music is sophisticated beyond simplicity, yet retains that basic idea where improvisation stands on and of its own accord. Both Rainey and Hollenbeck play drums to reinforce the forest flower foundation, but Hollenbeck occasionally wrests counter-melodies from a vibraphone, marimba, little instruments, or even small kitchen appliances. Malaby's pliable, ultimately rambling tenor sax in its gandy dancer swing does an effective at-will switcheroo from 3/4 to 4/4 during "Old Smokey" with Hollenbeck's vibraphone close at hand. A sort of distended tango, "Sour Diesel" is reminiscent of Carla Bley, as the soprano sax of Malaby is contentious with the wheezing melodica of Hollenbeck. In a quieter and oftentimes tacit discourse, null segments and notes vie for podium position on "East Bay," where the spatial music does not so much build as it eventually splashes out of its shell via Rainey's march-violated incursions. Several free, short improvisations are tossed in, with "Can't Sleep" nightmarish to a certain degree, "Are You Sure?" and "YeSsssssss" seemingly parsed in paraphrases, the latter in bowed bass and sultry sax, while the claimed composition of Malaby's "Wake Up, Smell the Sumatra" is all about alarm-clock type, ethnic clattering percussion, and the squawky sax of the leader. The quartet works with Ornette Coleman's "Homogenous Emotions," not so much in an interpretation, but more a springboard for Malaby's singing, sighing sax. These four musicians always perform with an acumen and expertise that makes whatever music they play sound fresh and new no matter the context. If it is in fact thinly veiled like the wraiths they are appropriating, then let the imagination of these ghosts run wild.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos