Rob Clutton with Tony Malaby


Although inherently lean of means, the duo of bassist Rob Clutton and saxophonist Tony Malaby is expansive and sensitive in spirit. A natural and empathetic link is clearly evident here, a fresh case study in how the bass-and-sax partnership can yield broad results.

Clutton has won acclaim and played with a range of musicians, including Roscoe Mitchell and Anthony Braxton, and leads his Canadian band, The Cluttertones. But it was while the two were members of the Nick Fraser Quartet that the bassist sensed a rapport with Malaby, a notable inside-outside player whose resume includes work with Paul Motian and Kris Davis. What Offering offers, though, is a luminous variation on the duo setting.

Clutton composed seven of the 11 tracks here, with the others a testament to the pair’s easy meshing of energies. (A Fraser tune’ is included for good measure.) Each track owns its own distinct character and bearing, with the two outer pieces—the opening “Offering” and the gentle endpiece of “Latitude”—providing graceful framing for wilder interior moments.

Call this a “chordless” duo at your peril: Both musicians extend beyond the standard single-note voices of their instrument through multiphonics, bass chording and overtones via arco bass. “Twig” has an almost onomatopoeic relationship with its title, rising out of a scattershot percussive foundation on bass, tucked beneath Malaby’s nattering theme on soprano. By contrast, the pensive rubato ballad “Refuge” showcases the musicians’ melodic insightfulness, with Malaby’s soft, breathy long tones floating into the distance.

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