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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo courtesy of Angelica Sanchez

“[The saxophonist Tony Malaby and the pianist Angelica Sanchez] have been playing with their drummer pal Tom Rainey for years now,” writes Jim Macnie in The Village Voice; “their bedrock rapport doesn’t vanish for an instant when they’re truly hitting it. That gives their well-conceived abstractions an inner balance that often eludes others.”

All three members of the collaboratively-led trio have brought other groups to The Gallery in the past. We’ve been presenting Tony’s groups since 2007, and Angelica has led bands here since 2009, and Tom began performing here as a leader last year. We will welcome them back on Saturday night for two sets of sonic exploration.

Described as “modern improvised chamber music” by Gaute Solås, this group spontaneously composes with a particular predilection for narrative and form: “structure and exploration go hand in hand, not one sacrificed for the other.”

In a review of a 2004 Malaby/Sanchez/Rainey concert in The Chicago Tribune, Howard Reich notes, “for those willing to forgo the usual expectations that listeners often bring to jazz-trio sets, the performance in the Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater proved a glorious musical joy ride.” He goes on to provide a compelling description of the ensemble interplay:

On tenor saxophone, Malaby unleashed a tremendous range of sound, from low-register murmurs to high-energy sonic bursts to soft wisps of sound. At one moment, Malaby swung hard in rhythmically agitated riffs. At another, he sidestepped rhythmic pulse altogether, unfurling sinuous lines that floated above the ensemble texture.

The marvel was that Malaby, through all of these solo flights, somehow sustained a coherent narrative…

Malaby’s work found a nearly ideal setting in this trio, for keyboardist Angelica Sanchez and drummer Tom Rainey share Malaby’s predilection for constantly shifting sonic landscapes.

On electric keyboard, Sanchez provided an appealingly spiky, pointillistic accompaniment; …she showed that there’s a place for lyricism in abstract jazz improvisation.

Rainey, meanwhile, used mallets, brushes, sticks, hands and what-not to draw more sounds from a traditional drum set than one might have imagined possible. Yet his work consistently matched the ebb and flow of the trio’s improvisations, never overshadowing his colleagues’ statements but never receding into the background, either.

Granted, this is not music for all tastes. But listeners with open ears will find enticing sounds in this trio’s best work.