Tamarindo / Tom Varner

Originally published in Earshot Jazz October 2012

Tamarindo, a trio from New York, made their self titled debut on Clean Feed Records in 2007. Five years later, Tucson born tenor and soprano saxophonist Tony Malaby brings his project to the festival. Malaby is a frequent flyer to Earshot events, appearing on stages here since the late 1990’s.

Bronx native bassist William Parker anchors the harmony for Tamarindo. Parker studied with bassists Richard Davis, Art Davis, Milt Hinton, Wilbur Ware and Jimmy Garrison. He performed with pianist Cecil Taylor for more than a decade. Parker is a published composer, playwright and poet with more than 20 recordings as a leader.

The original incarnation of Tamarindo included drummer Nasheet Waits. This time around the drum throne is occupied by Bay area born Mark Ferber. He studied with Billy Higgins and Joe Labarbara. Now living in Brooklyn, Ferber is an auxiliary faculty member at City College of New York.

Tamarindo’s program is strictly original – no covers, nor American songbook standards. “Twisting triumvirate coursing to the finish line,” bassist Mark Helias wrote poetically in the liner notes of Tamarindo. “Speaking of flowers and scent, herbaceous and bent, inhabited by butterflies, active sanguine singing. Sweet and touching end still winging. Skirting the saccharin for the tamarind.” Of Malaby, Helias wrote, “He is sonic, he is time, he is gesture. He is inherent sound in meaning of sound, soundly.”

Opening for Tamarindo is the newly appointed Cornish faculty member, French horn player Tom Varner. Asked about the challenges he faces, Varner says he thrives on “keeping my chops up while being busy teaching at Cornish and raising two kids!”

Varner studied with pianist Jaki Byard, composer George Russell and saxophonist Steve Lacy. He appears on more than 70 recordings. Varner performs with the Washington Composers Orchestra, Jim Knapp Orchestra, Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, as well as his own quartet, nonet and tentet. He organized the Julius Watkins French Horn Festival at Cornish.

For this performance Varner is joined by Seattle saxophonist Eric Barber, bassist Phil Sparks and drummer Byron Vannoy. The group will celebrate the legacy of the late Steve Lacy, with whom Varner performed in Seattle in 1993. The program will also include Varner’s arrangements of music from Lacy’s favorite composers, Duke Ellington – “The Mystery Song,” “I Got It Bad” – and Thelonious  Monk – “Trinkle Tickle,” “Four in One.”

Before moving to Seattle in 2005, Varner lived in New York where he performed with Malaby. Malaby appears on two of Varner’s CDs. Varner says it “will be great to play opposite him and maybe have him join in on a tune with Eric, Phil, and Byron.”

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