Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Good Things Come in Twos on Ingrid Laubrock’s Haunting, Massive New Double Album

Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock’s epic new double album Dreamt Twice, Twice Dreamt – streaming at Bandcamp – has a novel concept: a single set of compositions performed by a jazz quartet plus chamber orchestra, then a completely different jazz quintet. The difference between the large and small-ensemble versions is stunning, to the point where one version is unrecognizable compared to the other.

Laubrock has worked with large improvising ensembles before, but this is her most ambitious and darkest project to date. There’s more going on here than anyone could possibly capsulize in a digestible album review: dive in for yourself and experience this strange and wonderful creation. Although it was recorded before the lockdown, the occasional shriek through the mist foreshadows the horror that would be the year 2020.

The first disc features the bandleader on tenor and soprano sax, joined by Cory Smythe on piano and quartertone electric piano, Robert Landfermann on bass and Tom Rainey on drums, along with the EOS Chamber Orchestra conducted by Susanne Blumenthal. They open with the title track, Laubrock’s upbeat, energetic solo seemingly wrenching the group along with her. Smythe quickly switches to eerie microtonal accents as Laubrock grows more casual, the strings looming back in with a similarly magical microtonality. Slides, dopplers and various echo effects, growly processed bass over shimmery ambience, and a plaintive bit of a viola theme all factor into the album’s first ten minutes. That sets the stage for the rest of the record.

Snorkel Cows has a bubbling, circling drive, rippling microtonal piano, strings like an agitated flock of birds, massed glissandos, echoey ambience and striking, resonant high/low contrasts plus a long, pensive interlude from Laubrock over disquieting, pulsing atmospherics. As strange as the tonalities are, the music isn’t far from what you might hear from an ambitiously tuneful current-day big band like Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge.

The album’s most symphonic number is Drilling, the first version clocking in at almost nineteen minutes of troubled haze punctuated by belltones, foghorns over a sad harbor, Hitchcockian moment of panic, trolls under a bridge and a triumphantly weird crescendo.

Never Liked That Guy has a playful light/dark dichotomy early on over shivery massed orchestration, rivulets of microtonal piano desencending and a relentlessly ominous backdrop for a surprisingly animated Laubrock soprano sax solo. The final cut, Down the Mountain, Down the Mountain is a Dvorkian orchestral cautionary tale  with looming low brass and keening strings taking the place of the indians out on the prairie, disintegrating to what seems to be an inevitable battle .

The quintet versions of the material are more pensive, as can be expected. Laubrock’s energy in the quintet version of Snorkel Cows commands centerstage, whether blippy or calm over the ensemble of Smythe, electric harpist Zeena Parkins, accordionist Adam Matlock and Momenta Quartet violinist Josh Modney. This time the drilling in the wall keeps up, but nobody seems to be paying any mind.

Speaking of Drilling, the quintet version is a thicket of stabbing burnt-plastic electronic interruptions finally redeemed by Matlock’s pulsing chords and a plaintive Laubrock solo over raindrop-and-mist sonics. Smythe’s jackhammering attack and Laubrock’s breathlessly jumping soprano sax substitutes for the orchestra in the take of I Never Liked That Guy

Modney’s severe, slashing microtonal riffs are matched by Laubrock’s masterful in-between harmonies and Matlock’s resolute resonance in Down the Mountain, Down the Mountain.

There’s also an electronic component throughout the album, typically in the background and mostly confined to tweaking textures, adding echoes and loops.

December 16, 2020 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dynamic, Kaleidoscopic Massed Improvisational Sprawl from Ingrid Laubrock

As a saxophonist, Ingrid Laubrock has formidable chops, borderless ambitions and an often devious sense of humor. While she’s been increasingly sought after for prestige big band gigs in the last couple of years, her own compositions up til now have been mostly for small groups, heavy on the improvisation. This blog characterized her 2016 album Ubatuba as “free jazz noir.” Her latest release, Contemporary Chaos Practices – streaming at Bandcamp – is her most ambitious project to date: two lushly invigorating, Braxton-esque pieces for orchestra and soloists. Those looking for bouncy hooks and swing won’t find it here, but as far as grey-sky massed improvisation, vivid unease and wry humor are concerned, this album is hard to beat.

One big innovation here is that Laubrock employs two conductors. Eric Wubbels conducts the score, while the conduction of Taylor Ho Bynum guides the improvisational aspects of the performance. A big whoosh from the 42-piece orchestra kicks off guitarist Mary Halvorson’s insistent pointillisms as the first segment of the epic four-part title piece gets underway, quickly echoed by the full ensemble: the hammering effect is very Louis Andriessen. Echoey, after-the-battle desolation alternates with massive upward swells; hushed flickers interchange with assertive, massed staccato. From there, a big, portentous heroic theme gets devoured by a flitting swarm of instruments: the effect as funny as it is disconcerting.

The first two movements segue into each other; the third begins with Messiaenic birdsong-like figures, then Jacob Garchik’s trombone kicks off a deliciously off-center, frantic chase scene from the whole ensemble. Led by dissociative figures from the strings, the calm afterward foreshadows the eerie resonance of the coda, awash in enigmatic low brass while Kris Davis’ electric piano flickers and flutters like the celeste in a Bernard Herrmann horror film score.

The album’s second piece, Vogelfrei, begins lush and still, Davis’ muted, ghostly piano signaling a droll exchange between strings and low brass. The intricacy of the interplay, right down to the tongue-in-cheek whistling of the strings amid a slowly emerging, lustrous melody, may be more thoroughly composed than it seems. Comedic moments – Halvorson’s guitar detective hitting a brick wall and then collapsing, and a yes-we-can/no-you-can’t smackdown – liven an otherwise persistent disquiet. A sepulchral choir of voices enters as the instruments build to a crowded skatepark tableau, which disappears only to pop up again.

Davis’ brooding neoromantic figures echo over a distant whirl and bustle, followed by a couple of slow but vigorous upward crescendos. Moments of bittersweet melody fall away one after the other, fading down and out with a long shiver from the strings a la Julia Wolfe.

Laubrock’s New York home these days is the Jazz Gallery, although she also likes to explore the fringes, both literally and figuratively. Her next gig is on Jan 31 at Holo in Ridgewood with a like-minded cast of improvisers: guitarist Ava Mendoza, microtonal violinist Sarah Bernstein, bassists Adam Lane and Brandon Lopez, and drummer Vijay Anderson. It’s not clear who’s playing when or with whom, but the lineup is worth coming out for whatever the case might be. Showtime is 7 PM; cover is $15.

January 28, 2019 Posted by | avant garde music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock Brings Her Enigmatic Improvisational Intensity to the Jazz Gallery Saturday Nigh

Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock’s latest album Ubatuba opens with a series of misty, foghorn-like pulses featuring…a tuba. That’s Dan Peck playing the big thing. Which is a red herring. Laubrock builds a sense of angst and menace that recurs throughout the record’s half-dozen expansive tracks, streaming at Spotify. You could call this free jazz noir. She and her quintet are playing the album release show on February 27, with sets at 7:30 and 9:30 PM at the Jazz Gallery, Cover is $22

Tom Rainey’s drums, flickering cymbals and hardware add cardio to the vascular as the album’s opening track, Any Breathing Organism, slowly coalesces; Laubrock enters on tenor sax with a strikingly bright flourish as Rainey gives her the red carpet cymbal treatment in the background. With its tantalizingly enigmatic textures, much of this ten-minute tone poem of sorts, a launching pad for leaping and diving sax (Laubrock joined by Tim Berne on alto), is closer to Japanese folk music or indie classical than it is straight-up jazz.

The band picks up the pace with a restrained suspense as the slow, tersely melodic exchanges of Homo Diluvii get underway: Ben Gerstein’s trombone-fueled doppler cadenzas enhance the Lynchian mood up to a chatty go-round where everything goes more or less haywire. Rainey’s shadowy explorations fuel the creepy/fluttery dichotomy as Hiccups begins, Laubrock and Gerstein taking separate corners, building to an insistent, minimalist pulse that eventually comes undone as it rises. The way Laubrock orchestrates that heartbeat up through the octaves, and into a fullscale attack, is clever and fun. From there the group winds their way down to a long carefree but closely conversational free round.

Hall of Mirrors comes together slowly out of that with steady, minimalist exchanges and uneasy close harmonies…and then it’s over. Any Many opens as a squalling free jazz pastiche over diesel-engine tuba with deft polyrhythmic flickers, and a droll are-we-tired-yet false ending. The epic final cut, Hypnic Jerk comes across like a Burroughsian cut-up take on a more trad postbop sound, the band eventually meeting in the middle with a jaunty, shuffling flair before they wind it down to hazy atmospherics, then back to another frenzy. Those who need a steady 4/4 swing beat may find much of this challenging, but it’s a clinic in close listening and good teamwork from a crew who have a lot of fun blazing a path through knotty terrain with their eyes closed.

February 24, 2016 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment