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While the bluntness of the rare sax-bass-drum unit inspired innovators like Ornette Coleman or Henry Threadgill to their best work, the format often caused listeners to squirm through extended bass or drum solos, even if they were patient with a single melodic voice. Saxophonist Tony Malaby leaps over these hurdles on his trio’s latest release, “Adobe,” by simply leaving no slack.

Malaby’s momentum charges ahead with fluent, distinctive expressions. Mature and confident enough to play with a natural gruffness, his phrasing is sparse, but brilliant. Developed inside New York’s avant-garde and straight-ahead groups, his voice stands out sharply in this minimalist setting. The relatively thin patches of harmony, not to mention slight, quirky rhythms, yield rich melodic ideas. He never lapses into the musical doldrums, but instead fills his solos with interesting connections, lyrical idiosyncrasies and bold intervallic leaps. And when he steps aside, bassist Drew Gress’ creative energy (honed through playing with New York’s top improvisers) and drummer Paul Motian’s experience (with Bill Evans’ most famous trio) never let the forward pulse slow for a beat. Cerebral, challenging postbop is not supposed to be this likable.

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