Brian Allen with Tony Malaby and Tom Rainey | Synapse

Go To Artist Page

Recommended if You Like
John Coltrane Nirvana Tim Berne

Album Links
Brian Allen GreatIndieMusic Tradebit MusicIsHere PayPlay

More Artists From
United States - Texas

Other Genres You Will Love
Jazz: Free Jazz Avant Garde: Classical Avant-Garde Moods: Type: Improvisational
Sell your music everywhere
There are no items in your wishlist.


by Brian Allen with Tony Malaby and Tom Rainey

Spontaneous three dimensional mutant funk backbeats surging out of nowhere, spars of skittering melody, rising rushing tenor waves stopped short by cymbal scrapes and plaintive gulps.
Genre: Jazz: Free Jazz
Release Date: 

We'll ship when it's back in stock

Order now and we'll ship when it's back in stock, or enter your email below to be notified when it's back in stock.
Continue Shopping
available for download only
Share to Google +1

To listen to tracks you will need to update your browser to a recent version.

  Song Share Time Download
1. Sphret
6:11 $0.99
2. Meloncem
4:54 $0.99
3. Expecade
2:48 $0.99
4. Briesrok
8:33 $0.99
5. Alphren
2:43 $0.99
6. Tageshif
5:27 $0.99
7. Tenrayle
8:00 $0.99
8. Espancino
12:13 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
“Their mode of expression is ruggedly free-form, but with a high degree of collective sensibility.” Nate Chinen, New York Times

"(Allen and Malaby) exhibit a natural ease with
multilinear improvisation, whether creating
instantaneous structural gambits for one another or
simply blowing full-speed ahead in tandem" - Peter
Margasak, Downbeat

"Backbeats surging out of nowhere, spars of skittering melody, rising tenor waves stopped short by cymbal scrapes and plaintive gulps.” Clifford Allen, Paris Transatlantic

"The spontaneous improvisations that make up Synapse are marvels of empathetic rapport. The trio vaults seamlessly but suddenly from one approach to another, navigating a broad dynamic range: restrained silences, somber avant blues and Ayler-esque gospel yield to erratic metric funk and unfettered free-bop." Troy Collins, Bagatellan

“It’s a strong date, often empowered by the artists’ collective ability to get to the point, make a statement or two, then back off and redirect energies into newer frontiers.” Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz

Brian Allen - Trombone
Tony Malaby - Tenor Saxophone
Tom Rainey - Drums

Recorded and Mixed at Studio STATS, Brooklyn, New York November 21 and 23, 2005 by Reuben Radding.
Mastered by Katherine Miller at Annandale Recording.

Design and Art by Stephen Byram.

SYNAPSE is Braintone Records’ fifth release by trombonist and composer Brian Allen. With tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey, “Synapse” is an album of creative and concentrated improvisations unbound to specific style or genre. This is music that can and does go spiraling into any direction. Challenging conventional function and expectation, melodies, textures and rhythms emerge and vanish, with the music weaving effortlessly in a multi-dimensional spacious swirl between the three like-minded improvisers. Complimenting the music inside, “Synapse” features evocative design and art by Stephen Byram.

Texas-based artist, trombonist and composer Brian Allen has become an increasingly active force in contemporary creative music circles. He has performed with Anthony Braxton, Dave Ballou, Gerald Cleaver, Mark Dresser, Ellery Eskelin, Michael Formanek, Satoko Fujii Duo and Orchestra NY, Frank Gratkowski, Drew Gress, Roswell Rudd, Michael Sarin. Brian’s previous four releases on Braintone include “Trombone/Contrabass” (with Reuben Radding,) “Solo Trombone,” “Brain Killer,” (with pianist Jacob Koller) and “Sketchy” (absurdist trumpet, trombone and drums cover band.) Brian recently premiered a new quartet in Merida, Mexico with assistance from a Meet the Composer Global Connections Grant.

Originally from Tucson, Arizona, Tony Malaby has been permanently based in New York since 1995 and has been a member of many notable jazz groups including Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra, Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band, Mark Helias' Open Loose, Fred Hersch's quintet and Walt Whitman project. Tony leads several projects of his own including: APPARITIONS featuring: Drew Gress, Tom Rainey and Mike Sarin. The Tony Malaby Trio, featuring Drew Gress and Paul Motian and a co-operative trio with Angelica Sanchez and Tom Rainey.

Tom Rainey is originally from Pasadena, California. Since moving to New York in 1979 he has performed and or recorded with the following artists: John Abercrombie, Ray Anderson, Tim Berne, Jane Ira Bloom, Ted Curson, Marc Ducret, Drew Gress, Mark Helias, Fred Hersch, Joe Lovano, Tony Malaby, Carmen McRae, Mike Nock, Simon Nabatov, New and Used, Anita O'Day, Angelica Sanchez, Louis Sclavis, Brad Shepik, Swiss Romande Orchestra, Tom Varner, Ken Werner, Denny Zeitlin. Mr. Rainey is currently performing and recording with many of the artists listed above.

"Houston-based trombonist and composer Brian Allen has become an increasingly active force in contemporary creative music circles. Though still a disciple of players like Slide Hampton and Curtis Fuller, Allen has nevertheless found very personal ways to break down his slippery bop-honed trombone chops. He takes the instrument apart, removes the mouthpiece to vocalize through the bare tubing, raps the mouthpiece against the bell, and employs multiphonics – but there’s that polished jazz-trombone sound cutting through all of the instrumental deviations.

When the Allen-Malaby-Rainey trio gigged in Austin recently, the wide-open acoustic space and long, sinuous trombone and tenor lines suggested a latterday derivation of the New York Art Quartet. Yet these bluesy harmonies are part of a more complex whole: on “Expecade,” sound-sheet conversations hinting at the free-blues tradition are followed (after one of Rainey’s salvos at the drums) by sparse dialogues between buzzing, dribbling trombone vocalizations and breathy tenor. Backbeats surging out of nowhere, spars of skittering melody, rising tenor waves stopped short by cymbal scrapes and plaintive gulps – Synapse is a subtle upending of the tried-and-true." Clifford Allen, Paris Transatlantic, June 2006

Rainey works regularly with the muscular saxophonist Tony Malaby, so their collaborations with the equally brawny Texas trombonist Brian Allen on Synapse makes for a good match. The two horn players exhibit a natural ease with multilinear improvisation, whether creating instantaneous structural gambits for one another or simply blowing full-speed ahead in tandem. The pair’s hard-bop roots come
in handy, they never get tangled up in conflicting harmonies or rhythms.

Rainey deserves some of the credit for keeping things fluid. His keen sense of dynamics makes sure the improvisations are never static, whether that means dropping out altogether, stoking the proceedings with a focused clatter or simply bearing down on his kit. He eschews a steady pulse most of the time, but that doesn’t mean he’s not propelling the music forward. Despite the sense of movement he lends, Rainey’s drumming is almost as melodic as the lines his cohorts lay down. Peter Margasak

Trombonist Brian Allen brings a burst of energy to contemporary creative music on Synapse (his fifth release), as his trio fits melody, harmony and rhythm into a mixed bag of free-flowing ideas. Tony Malaby plays a major role on this album too, as he helps steer the trio toward more outside adventures. Along with Allen and drummer Tom Rainey, he provides multidirectional flavors that keep the session on edge.

Veterans all, the three artists hail from points west: Rainey from Southern California, Malaby from Southern Arizona and Allen from Southeast Texas. With their free attitude on display, each participates equally, pushing each improvised piece with unbridled passion. The scenes rise and fall as the mood shifts, but the trio never boils over. They control each situation so that impressions remain vocal-like and natural. Malaby’s aromatic tenor wafts melodic while Allen drives in circles of animated motion and Rainey colors with aplomb. Cohesive, the trio
takes cues from each other gracefully and soars eloquently. With a great respect for poetry in motion, the trio uses most of its energy to work collectively, creating three-way scenes that reflect different impressions.

“Tageshif” drives powerfully with a forceful manner while “Espancino” dances joyfully in celebration of the trio’s free spirit. “Tenrayle” begins with a quiet lull that morphs gradually into a soulful, vocal-like moan while “Expecade” includes bombs from the drummer and wails from the two horns. Unique through its original instrumentation and free through its wide-ranging array of impressions, Allen’s trio provides a lively yet integrated program of avant garde jazz. ~Jim Santella (ALL ABOUT JAZZ NEW YORK, JANUARY 2007)
Trombonist/composer Brian Allen aligns himself with the creme de la creme of New York City jazz musicians on this bass-less trio date. Synapse is a cleverly articulated effort; Allen nimbly handles the lower (bassline) register while toggling between his leadership and soloing duties. During nip and tuck dialogues, the band navigates an abundance of disparate time signatures.

Tenor sax player Tony Malaby pronounces fire and brimstone during most of this session as the band follows by an evolutionary process drenched with interleaving exchanges. However, Malaby does lessen the gritty, hard-nosed environs on occasion, during an assortment of sublime thematic forays. Otherwise, Allen is a fiery soloist, while drummer Tom Rainey peppers and prods the band via snappy, asymmetrical pulses and polyrhythmic off-beats.

Complete with jagged flows and intensive three-way improvisation, Synapse finds the musicians digging deep from within. On this democratic engagement, everyone involved embarks upon a similar plane. For example, Allen’s blitzing notes on “Alphren” are counterbalanced by Rainey’s call and response techniques, largely performed on the snare drum and hi-hat. In addition, the unit’
s intuitive interactions are steeped within rising tides and descending undercurrents. It’s a strong date, often empowered by the artists’ collective ability to get to the point, make a statement or two, then back off and redirect energies into newer frontiers. ~ Glenn Astarita (ALL ABOUT JAZZ)
Synapse, the fifth release by Texas-based trombonist Brian Allen on his own Braintone Records, features two of today's most intuitive improvisers: tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey. A studio session recorded in Brooklyn, this album demonstrates a wealth of responsive interplay and intricate interaction across eight collaboratively composed pieces.

Stints with Anthony Braxton, Mark Dresser, Ellery Eskelin, Satoko Fuijii, Michael Formanek and Roswell Rudd, among others, fill Allen's resume. Previous recordings have featured him playing solo, as a duo with either bassist Reuben Radding or keyboardist Jacob Koller and as a member of the absurdist cover band,

Allen's accomplices need no introduction. Ubiquitous saxophonist Tony Malaby claims a burgeoning discography that speaks volumes. Tom Rainey has been a fixture for over two decades on the New York scene; his contributions here are as fresh and inventive as any he's committed to record.

The spontaneous improvisations that make up Synapse are marvels of empathetic rapport. The trio vaults seamlessly but suddenly from one approach to another, navigating a broad dynamic range: restrained silences, somber avant blues and Ayler-esque gospel yield to erratic metric funk and unfettered free-bop.

During impetuous moments, Allen and Malaby spar with Rainey in a fitful game of cat and mouse. While the horns dovetail around one another in playful jest, Rainey acts as instigator. Endlessly pushing and prodding them, he rarely stays locked into a groove before modulating into another tempo. With an uncanny ability to generate infectious rhythms from the most abstruse of phrases, he alters them with sporadic variation. Although the trio operates as a collective, when Rainey launches into a salvo of percussive frenzy, the horns have little choice but to concede. Allen and Malaby periodically hold the line, plying long tones and glissandos in defiance, but Rainey's perseverance typically draws them into the fray.

Leaving out the rattles, bells and other assorted ethnic percussion he occasionally uses when accompanying Tim Berne, Rainey instead plays a stripped-down drum kit. Revisiting the propulsive and precise attack he
perfected in the early nineties, Rainey channels the spirit of Billy Higgins and Roy Haynes. Exploring a wide range of dynamics, his delicate statements find him playing with mallets while the horns weave breathy whispers around his accents.

Allen is a discursive and lyrical player, and an excellent foil for Malaby. Exceedingly versatile, Malaby is as capable of tender euphonious lyricism as he is fervently expressive exclamations. Malaby tempers his more extreme outré tendencies, but Allen still extricates the tenor's exploratory side. Together, they make a synchronous pair. Malaby's breathy, dulcet explorations are complemented by Allen's slurred whinnies and fractious phrases. When Allen ratchets up the intensity level with brassy post-bop angularity and turgid, gutbucket bleating, Malaby expels waves of sound, swirling and churning with serpentine energy. Frequently interlocking during their circuitous journeys, they offer each other symbiotic support.

As Allen's first release to feature high profile musicians, Synapse is a splendid addition to his discography and a winning example of well-balanced and equitable free improvisation.

~ Troy Collins (BAGATELLAN)
Brian Allen may well be the best American modern jazz trombonist that you’ve never heard of. Allen’s lack of exposure probably has more to do with his choice to live and work in southern Texas than anything else. Every so often, he sallies forth from his home base at Brazosport College, near Houston, to work with avant-jazz luminaries such as Mark Dresser, Satoko Fujii, Ellery Eskelin, and Dave Ballou. The fifth in Allen’s impressive series of self-released CDs, “Synapse” is a daring bass-free trio with two of New York City’s stalwart improvisors; tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey. Allen displays extraordinary control and command of the trombone, and has rapidly developed into a distinctive modern jazz stylist. The presence of Malaby and Rainey on any session – free improvised or otherwise – ensures a pretty high likelihood for inspired playing and worthwhile listening. Rainey is the best known of the three, not the least for his ceaselessly creative, endlessly inventive playing in Tim Berne’s and Simon Nabotov’s various ensembles. Malaby is quickly becoming a top-shelf jazz tenor saxophonist. His gruff ‘bull tenor’ sound hearkens back to players like Clifford Jordan, Booker Ervin, and Billy Harper, yet his solos belie the patience and attention to detail that I associate with ‘cooler’ players such as Joe Henderson, Jim Pepper, and Joe Lovano.

“Synapse” is a freely improvised set divided into eight distinct pieces, none of which settle into predictable or linear patterns. On any given track, gentle solo musings or impromptu trombone - tenor chorales may give way to a sort of stripped-down mutant funk with either Allen or Malaby strutting out in front, or to broiling post-Ayler collective improvisation, before shifting to pointillistic, contrapuntal ant-music of the sort championed by UK improvisors. Solos, duets, and trios form, twist, and disperse to create an ever shifting tapestry of improvisation. Though all three players do some really jaw-dropping stuff throughout “Synapse”, Rainey’s drumming is what ties the whole thing together. His choices are nothing short of perfect throughout this CD – muted toms and cymbal scrapes provide warm counterpoint to Allen’s thoughtful trombone on ‘Meloncem’, his stop-and-start hi-hat snare drum tattoo crackles like a practical-joking Roy Haynes on ‘Alphren’, and his flexible, mutable approach channels and focusses Malaby’s and Allen’s seething energy on ‘Espancino’. Hopefully, these guys will continue to work and develop this potentially amazing trio. “Synapse” is a fine example of jazz-based free-improvised music. ~ Dave Wayne (JAZZ REVIEW)
Because the eight tracks on this disc are free improvisations, Synapse officially qualifies as “difficult” music. The structure, density, dynamics and overall timbre evolve as each track plays, and as such takes a bit more closer listening, even repeated listenings, to begin to follow what these three wonderful musicians are doing. The album has a very open sound since there is no chordal instrument, and not really even a rhythm instrument. Drummer Tom Rainey (heard this year on violinist Mark Feldman's ECM release What Exit) is a full melodic partner in the proceedings, rarely playing with an overt pulse. Tenorist Tony Malaby (who recently appeared on Samo Salamon's Two Hours) and the ostensible leader, trombonist Brian Allen, take turns supporting each other in varying registers and with different degrees of intensity as both “soloist” and “accompanist.”

A synapse is the space where neurons come together and transmit a signal from one to another—in other words, where the neuronal connection happens. The album is full of suggestive connections beyond the title—including the cover art as well as the track titles, which seem to be anagrams, but which just will not be cracked.

These ideas of connection, passing information, and scrambled information waiting to be decoded provide at least some of the keys to getting into this superficially inscrutable music. It is more than just sound to which the dictum “Let it flow over you and see how it makes you feel” would apply. “Briersrok” is perhaps the most immediately accessible track: Rainey slowly brings a pulse together as Malaby and Allen intimate a thematic phrase, which can then be discerned in various guises. About halfway through, things get quiet and Rainey begins a steady, but ungrouped beat that mutates into a very cool groove, which is quite pleasant to hear after so much abstraction. When the steady pulse dies out towards the end, Allen and Malaby's individual lines, once again freed from the tyranny of the beat, take on fresh meaning.

There is a lot going on all the time throughout this record, and it is surely not background music. With many and varied techniques, played with differing amounts of flow, regularity and angularity, Synapse is a constantly changing and ultimately engaging release for those who like, even rarely, to travel on the brainy (to use an Allen anagram) side of jazz. There's a lot of music here for those willing to look. ~ Budd Kopman

"The trio of Tony Malaby (tenor and soprano saxes), Brian Allen (trombone), and Tom Rainey (drums) engaged in a set of free improvised music that showed just how great this music can be when played by a group of creative and like-minded improvisers. For close to an hour the three explored countless uncharted territories around the realm of modern jazz and free improvisation. Each of the artists were comfortable and inspired enough to weave effortlessly in and out of the forefront, inviting and inciting one another to take the music one step further.

Malaby covers so much territory within this music but never falls victim to any contrived sense of "being eclectic" for the sake of. What he plays all comes from the same place, from the heart and soul of the creative artist. Tony seems to be able to get from one place in the music to the other in such a logical and unhurried manner. While he almost always takes his music down uncharted paths (even when playing in a realtively conventional modern jazz setting), tonight Tony was possessed by an even greater spirit. With the aide and encouragement of his partners, he dug way down deep with some of the most intense, raw, and energized tenor stylings that I've heard him engage in. The music took off into beautiful free excursions with all three improvising simultaneously but supporting and backing each other all the way. And before you knew it, they were swinging furiously.

Brian Allen is a name to look out for. This was my first experience hearing him peform live or on record. Up from Texas to play in this setting (and with Mark Dresser and Dave Ballou on Wednesday) Brian's contributions to this music were great. He, like Tony (and Tom) appears to be equally comfortable playing "out" or swinging, but I get the sense that he's at his most inspired when playing free. His accents and punctuations, as well as his more melodic lines all served to help engage the trio and keep it moving.

And Tom Rainey, well you know Tom Rainey. Picture the way that he plays in Mark Helias' Open Loose and take that a few more steps into free improvisation and you'll have an idea of what Tom was contributing to the music. Tom has such a great sense for what's happening in the music that he can actually add to a horn player's phrase by listening and adding accents in the most creative places. Rarely do you hear him play a repetitive, straight rhythm, but the rhythmic feel always seems to be there, and be there in a strong way. An unsung master of the drums. This was trio improvising at its best." JazzCornertalk Live Review from a concert at CBGB's.



to write a review