NICK FRASER / KRIS DAVIS / TONY MALABY “Zoning” C40 (Astral Spirits)

Once Kris Davis’s piano joins and then replaces Tony Malaby’s sax, Ingrid Laubrock’s tenor sax, and Lina Allemano’s trumpet on “Zoning,” you know you’re in for it. Till then, the brass had overwhelmed, with Nick Fraser’s drumwork supporting it like a collapsing folding table with too many cakes on it. Once everybody rejoins what turns out to be a friggin’ jamboree, like Dixieland on acid, thrashing their still-playing bodies through all the floor-cake, making a huge mess, “Zoning” zips to a close, thus opening the cassette of the same name with a compartmentalized look at how this whole thing is going to play out.


The trio, with the odd bit of help from the extra personnel mentioned above, freewheels through the rest of Zoning, sparking massive grooves at points, pulling back to balladland at others, testing their mettle as a classic lineup at almost every opportunity. As an observer who rides a bicycle through a scene of cake and carnage, I can only imagine the effort put into such a recording, and I am baffled and overwhelmed as the tape continues to roll, even after my jazz ears are fully sated within the first few minutes. As I adjust my top hat and tails and continue on my way, I’m buffeted by the strains of the dirgelike ending of “Sketch 46,” then jolted into caffeinated shivers as “Charismatics” begins its jaunt through my headphones, bringing tears to my pleasantly surprised eyes.

Turns out you CAN cry over spilled cake!