Tom McNalley Trio: Tom McNalley Trio (PFMCD018)


Tom McNalley Trio

Tom McNalley: guitar
Jonas Tauber: bass
Ken Ollis: drums

1) Reddog 18:32
2) Orange Needle Society 13:53
3) ZHE 14:34
4) Mourned 9:54
5) Gallery 421 7:30
6) Loss 8:01
Total Playing Time: 72:24

All compositions by Tom McNalley, (C)2004 Tom McNalley Music, ASCAP
Recorded at Cappos Cafe, 10.6.03 by Keegan Quinn
CD mastering, art design, and layout by Jeff Kaiser
Photographs by Jonas Tauber and Tom McNalley

After getting the initial version of this CD, I sent copies to several people to see what they thought. One was my friend, author and music critic Richard Meltzer. He called and said that he loves the CD – very much, in fact – and if I wanted liner notes, he would write them. Naturally, and with gratitude, I took him up. — Tom McNalley

Hey, listen — I got something important to tell you:

Tom McNalley is the youngest Great Musician I’ve ever encountered.

Great! Amazing! To put things in even partial perspective, the last young’un anywhere near as adept and inventive and passionately original was probably David Murray, pre-WSQ, back when he was still a ferocious motherfucker.

Tom McNalley IS a ferocious motherfucker. By turns savage and tender — a killer and healer — nutso and nutty, then logical/lucid as Jerkoff Sebastian Bach, his playing is as hotly/coolly/sanely/madly a-dance and a-prance (at peace-and-war) with abstract notions as it is with direct emotional one-on-one — “interest” and “feeling” existentially melded (no mean feat) — “jazzy” in the least jaded, least guitar-baggaged, most mammal-elegant sense, while partaking EQUALLY of the dirty screaming scuzz of postwar blues and rock rock rock and roll…fuggit.

Sophisticated beyond its maker’s 21 years, Tom’s music spins, spills and spits forth whole vast sonic WORLDS (pardon my French), but if you’re lookin’ to hear Other Guitarists in his playing, well, you won’t hear other guitarists in his playing. Okay, splashes and soundings maybe — f’r sure he’s picked up “things” from Hendrix, McLaughlin, Sharrock, Nels Cline, Derek Bailey, Alberts Collins and King — but rarely anything as explicit as a borrowed “idea,” a riff, even a lick.

“I’ve never been lick-oriented,” says Tom. “I’ve tried to develop a sense of melody that will serve me, that’ll do me some good, and I always like to see how others handle it, but not through their licks.”

By “melody,” um, you mean tunes? Tunefulness?

“No, more like just the basis for telling a story — the unique and individual approaches of players I admire, the ones who seem to be emotionally honest, who have the chops to communicate directly and honestly. Most aren’t even guitarists. Rob Blakeslee is and has been very important to me, seeing how he makes the music that is his — the concepts he brings to his trumpet playing.

Ayler…Braxton…Charlie Parker, certainly — but not for anything to do with ‘bebop.’ Bebop as such has very little meaning to me.”
And what is the importance, the weight in the equation, of “free”?

“In a sense, I view composition as no more than a set of instructions for the band. There are things I want to happen, but they’re general. I like looseness — flexibility — so the music can go anywhere. In some cases there’ll be a written line, but usually no more than a suggestion of bass line, rhythmic groove, things like that. Half the tunes in this set, on this recording, are freely improvised — completely — there’s no written or suggested anything. Even the stuff that sounds written is very spur-of-the-moment. In real time, not trying to play to a pre-existent notion, but at the same time going for and building a musical totality, the players communicated the compositions to each other. We just played and listened.”

Played and listened: dig it!

Look, I don’t wanna make with the ultra-superlatives again — well, maybe I do — but this here album, on which Tom, bassist Jonas Tauber and drummer Ken Ollis explore, with extreme malice (and extreme care and definitude), the MYSTERY OF INTIMACY — stripmine it — achieve near-total communion — is to my ears the HOTTEST debut alb by a guitar guy & co. since Are You Experienced? Hendrix. Before you were born (that’s how old I am).

It is also — pardon my carried-away — one of the great trio albs, period, y’know like ever, up there with Trio in Real Time by Richard Grossman, the v. best of Bill Evans with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian, and the bestest by Air with Steve McCall. The music these humpers make together is outstanding and astounding…I wouldn’t shit ya.

Hey — I love this record — ‘scuse me — disc. I hope you will too.

— Richard Meltzer, Portland, 2004



SKU: PFMCD018 Category:

1 review for Tom McNalley Trio: Tom McNalley Trio (PFMCD018)

  1. 0 out of 5

    “McNalley’s trio (4) is edgy, hard-hitting, and wildly exploratory. I recall Pfmentum boss Jeff Kaiser raving about him in an email some months back, and now I can hear why. From a single night’s work at a local café, the trio stretches out on some very long compositional journeys. Though McNalley may tire of hearing this comparison, I was most reminded in this music of the feel of the original Nels Cline Trio—the players draw on a similarly wide range of idioms, they have the same penchant for combining free texture with very pronounced harmonic shapes (often tritones), and McNalley’s tone actually flirts closely with Nels’. But these guys don’t hew to the same—often baroque—structures Cline sometimes favors and, with Tauber playing rich acoustic bass, the palette here is a bit more dynamic than Cline’s old trio (and more in tune with his new one). I’m particularly fond of the moments when McNalley uses the volume pedal in dialogue with Tauber’s rich arco. The forceful, rumbling “ZHE” is one of the more jagged-sounding pieces here, with a sprawling course that recalls a Vinny Golia small-group composition. Another highlight is the bow and feedback fantasy on “Gallery 421.” The closing “Loss” is all the more impressive in its gentle melancholy because of the fire of preceding tracks. Their out swing passages sound very convincing, though they can’t really hem McNalley in for too long. And at times that’s the rub with this record: these guys go to so many places, so quickly, that there occasionally seems to be a lack of focus. But ultimately I find it hard to get down on this guys for having a surfeit of ideas; that’s the thing they’re exploring here, and they do it really well.”

    -Jason Bivens, Cadence, January 2005

    In an exhausting session of his own compositions, guitarist Tom McNalley leads his trio through vociferous tirades as well as somber dreamscapes. The rise and fall of their passion immerses the trio in searing intensity one moment—gentle repose the next. Each of the three artists contributes a confident voice that drives the program cohesively.
    With his guitar ablaze, McNalley turns fighter. He scores a knockout punch several times as he rips the air with ferocious streams of descant. Clear and crisp, the technique with which he excites the music carries a powerful message. With emotions bared and fingers flying, he sets fire to each extended piece and doesn’t let up.
    Bassist Jonas Tauber provides hearty pizzicato thrills as well as graceful arco lullabies. His deep-rooted drive gives the session a strong foundation. Drummer Ken Ollis swirls the room with textural masses. His colors surround the trio’s energetic storms and provide firm reassurance.
    Together, the trio takes each wave to its crest and trough, moving intuitively from one mood to the next. No specific impressions need be assigned as the three artists pursue their exploration in tandem. It’s an intense session, filled with powerful feelings and stretches of the imagination. Musically, the threesome achieves a widespread array of tonal colors in adventuresome combinations. Emotionally, they provide spontaneity and a fiery attack. While not entirely accessible to our more traditional readers, Tom McNalley’s trio offers substantial growth in the creative music field and plenty of passion.”

    -Jim Santella,

    “This CD features Tom’s scorching guitar licks, solid bass underpinnings by Jonas Tauber & drums that just don’t quit by Ken Ollis. Tom is a “younger player” (21), but he is ferociously talented, & you’ll hear that from the opening bar! He is able to milk screams, as well as silence, from his stringboard, & knows right where to move with th’ rest of th’ trio. In fact, that’s one of the most impressive features of this set… nobody is “steppin'” on th’ others. One of th’ complaints I (frequently) hear about guitar players is that they (often) “take over” a set, whippin’ th’ volume up to overshadow th’ other players…. well, these guys are equally loud! Heh! Heh! & on this album, that’s a PLUS! Improv fans th’ world over will groove out on this, but (even) straight “jazz-heads” will find lots to like as well, especially on the intro & first few sequences of the opener, “Reddog”, my favorite track on the album. For more laid-back sounds, check out the last cut, “Loss” – very nicely put together, with an “smooth improv” feel (how’s THAT for coining a phrase?). I certainly recommend headphones, a glass (or a snort) of whatever turns yer’ motor on & close th’ door so you won’t be interrupted. There’s a “balance” throughout the sets (this sounds like it was recorded live… audience sounds & all that), & th’ trio clearly shows how “tight” they are together… which for an improvised gig is essential… NO “loose ends” on these tracks. This one gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, especially for improv fans who like to hear music interspersed with their “wild & crazy”. GREAT music! GREAT fun!”

    Rotcod Zzaj,Improvijazzation Nation, Issue # 68

    “This album contains six songs including what I think is the longest track I have ever seen on a CD. Titled “Reddog” it tracks for an incredible 18:32! Most of the other tracks are pretty long too. The shortest runs for 7:30. All told we have almost 73 minutes of music.
    The focus here is a free and open guitar jam resulting in some amazing electric ‘axe’ work. The trio really play well off each other and compliment one another. The guitar playing is nothing short of amazing. As I said, these tracks are all long explorations and experimentations of what a guitar [electric] is and does. The ‘influences’ are many and varied. There are snippets or touches of maybe say SANTANA, BB KING, G. THOROUGHGOOD, RITTENOUR, McLAUGHLIN, but especially edges of HENDRIX, intended or unintended nuaunces of PHIL KEAGGEY, and of course from one considered by many the master–STEVIE RAY VAUGHN.

    The music is hard to classify but I might call it avant garde acid jazz or intellectual guitar meets a clever jam. McNalley jams, picks, clicks and in places recalls jazz guitar masters while in others he tends to throw out all predictability out the window. Something like DIMEOLA on acid while being electrocuted at the same time. You get the idea.

    Yet this guy is supposedly only 21 years of age! I mean this fellow is in my opinion (as well as others) a rising genius. In my thoughts he is better than ERIC JOHNSON, SATRIANI, or E. VAN HALEN. From soft nuanced notes to wild wailing blasts and riffs, he covers all angles and approaches. The liner notes didn’t mention electric violins or cellos but in places I heard these–clearly clever playing from McNalley and friends.

    This is an album that must not be missed. Highly creative and highly recommended.”

    Armand Canales, CRITICAL REVIEW Service
    P.O. Box 3593
    El Paso, TX 79923

    Tom McNalley develops daring ideas in this CD. The result of his efforts is clearly avantgarde: a total of six long tracks with a wide experimental diversity appropriate for those who want to escape from conventionalisms. The style is based on Avantgarde Jazz, but it also incorporates some Psychedelic elements. All the themes have been composed by Tom McNalley. He also plays the guitar, the main soloist instrument in this album. Tom is accompanied by Jonas Tauber, who plays the bass; and Ken Ollis, who plays drums.


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