Tony Malaby

Voodoo Child !

You are not an "anti-jazz" like some of the downtown musicians from New York. But i feel that you are trying to think this music differently : no traditionnal structure (soft beginning-crescendo-down), getting away from the solo thing... Can you tell us more about that ?

Basically I want the improvisation to merge with the composition in an organic way.The composition must be pliable like an improvisation and the improvisation should be very compositional.I am going for a seamless statement.When it is really happeningit never feels like Iam taking a "solo".By creating pieces that come out of our improvised vocabulary itbecomes easy to hide the composition in the improvisation or vice versa.I have played in many types of situations with Drew,Tom and Mike and wanted to recreate some of my favorite zones that I experienced with them.Some of the pieces are through composed,some are structured with chord changes ("Talpa" and "Jersey Merge",which is based on "Bye Bye Blackbird".),and some are devoloped from small fragments("Fast Tip" , "Voladores" ).By the way, this has been going on for a very long time (Braxton,Roscoe Mitchell,etc.).

I made an interview with Drew Gress few month ago, and he told me about Tom Rainey « he is one of the great improvising drummers, with a daredevil's instincts and perfect musical radar ». How his your artistic relation with this two musicians ?

I feel that we have a lot in common.I think that we all developed in the same way: lessons,college where we studied standards and bebop, rock gigs,fusion gigs,straight ahead gigs,New York,etc. Because of this there is a lot of trust.It seems that Tom and Drew are always 2 steps ahead of me and are always zoned in to my direction and intention.They are always serving the music while coming up with something completely spontaneous.They are very liberated musicians who can go anywhere at any time.I am constanly inspired by both of them.

And what about your experimentation with two drummers group ?

I had a really good run at an East Village club called the Internet Cafe which was on E. 3rd St., it had 2 separate fires and it was eventually shut down,but a lot of times I played there 2 or 3 times a week,and it was the first place where I played (separately) with Drew,Tom,and Mike. My first experimentation with the 2 drummers was there.Sarin was involved but Rainey was not.I believe I did 2 gigs with a 2 drum band at this time and abandoned the idea,then a year later I did a few solo saxophone dates and at one of these I played with 2 drum students from a summer jazz camp where I taught.This was spring 2002.I really liked how it felt,kind of like a warm bath or the most comfortable couch you have ever sat in ! Being surrounded by that sound and falling into it - thats what I wanted and I knew that Tom and Mike were the guys for this.We played a series of improvised gigs and then I began to try to re-create some of the zones that I really liked that we got into on those gigs.

After many discussion with jazz musicians, i realize that visualization and imagery are a very important part of this music : is it the same for you, when you are composing ?

Yes,very much so.For "Apparitions",during the initial stages I really stayed away from the piano and saxophone.I would lie in my hammock in the back yard and try to hear the entire piece in my head and develope it in my head.This was very new to me.My wife Angelica Sanchez had been writing like this for years.During these sessions my mind would drift off and I would think of the books I was reading or what I was going to make for dinner,then back to the piece .At this time I was thinking about my heritage a lot and reading about ancient Mexico and cooking a lot with chilis,cilantro,mexican spices.This is all meditation at it works its way into the music.Its my voodoo.

You try to introduce illusion in your compositions « trying to disguise who’s playing what » you said in an interview. You want to improve listeners ?

No, I just want to improve my music. At the time I was checking out Evan Parker,John Butcher,Bhob Rainey, and it found its way into my playing and composition, that's all.

What about New-York jazz scene ?

It’s a story of love and hate for me.It is so hard to live here , everything is so expensive,people for the most part have a shitty disposition and........(violin music)........... But,I cannot imagine living anywhere else.Where else can you record with Paul Motian and Drew Gress,play with Joe and Matt Maneri,play with Fred Hersch,then play with Mar Helias and Tom Rainey all in the same week ? There isa handfull of very young artist that I am developing music with that I am very excited about too.Because of the survival factor I really hear the voodoo and meaning in every note by people who have stuck it out.This is very important to me.

Concerts or musicians that you’ve heard ?

I heard Paul Bley, Gary Peacock ,and Paul Motian at Birdland a few weeks ago.It was a great hearing these guys do there thing.They would fall into these beautiful zones effortlessly and create these magnificent paintings from such a meditative space.I was inspired for days after that.

Next recordings and concert in France ?

I'll be with Charlie Hadens' Liberation Orchestra this summer and will be at several of Frances summer festivals. I will probaly have a tour in Oct./Nov. with my trio(Cameron Brown and Gerald Cleaver) and will make a live recording at the Paris club Sunset for the Freelance label(My current cd is with them and is called "Adobe" and features Drew Gress and Paul Motian ).There is also a new disc that features Angelica Sanchez and Tom Rainey, it is called "Alive in Brooklyn " and is a live recording that can be ordered through DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY.

Interview by Jean Delestrade