Rob Clutton with Tony Malaby

SnailBongBong Records SBB 006

By Ken Waxman

Bolstering his skills as an improviser and composer, Toronto bassist Rob Clutton reconstitutes some of his previously recorded improvisations as notated kernels for this program with New York saxophonist Tony Malaby. No rote recapitulation, those themes and others are stretched and pulsated with the same cultivated freedom the duo brings to the completely improvised tracks.

Of the disc’s 11 tunes, some like “Refuge” come across with supple guitar-like strokes from Clutton matched with relaxed tone expressions from Malaby that explore every facet of the piece. Meanwhile “Lattitude” revolves around a chromatic interface that depends on balancing the saxophonist’s undulating tremolo lines with the bassist’s deep, dark thumps. In contrast each of the three in-the-moment improvisations resonates with technical prowess that is as outstanding as it is subtle. There’s “Twig”, where Malaby’s sprightly altissimo-pitched soprano sax narrative is urged to flutter-tongued power by Clutton’s pressurized string stretches; or the frenetic commotion created on “Swerve” as the saxophonist’s detours into higher-pitched split tones needs tandem bass pumps to preserve broken-octave affiliations.

The extended “Crimes of Tantalus” may be the most spectacular expression of this partnership however. Clutton’s rhythmic sophistication displayed in a solo of pressurized pumps thoroughly complements the tenor saxophonist’s stream of cries, reed bites and multiphonics. Yet as dramatic as the performance is, it comes across with a maximum of sophistication, a minimum of struggle and with every fluid timbre in its proper place.

This is a notable Offering, offering up many instances of Clutton’s musical maturity.

-a MusicWorks Web Page special feature