Ingrid Laubrock: The Last Quiet Place

Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock always seems to search out new instrumental configurations for her music. This time out, she and her musical and life partner, drummer Tom Rainey, collaborate with a quartet of accomplished string players, guitarist Brandon Seabrook, violinist Mazz Swift, cellist Tomeka Reid, and bassist Michael Formanek. Together they create stimulating music which can be many things. At different times it sounds formal, urgent, placid, and violent.

“Afterglow” and “Anticipation” explore some of the classical possibilities of this group. The former is shimmering chamber music where bowed cello, violin, and bass rise in layers against stretched-out electric guitar chords and slowly yearning tenor saxophone. On the latter, the three bowed strings have a tenser dialogue with Seabrook, Laubrock, and Rainey as their delicate beauty alternates with an ominous brew of heavy tenor saxophone and dramatic drumming. On “The Last Quiet Place,” Seabrook’s strumming over a brisk tempo brings up thoughts of Pat Metheny, with keening violin and gracefully rising soprano saxophone adding more body to the overall sound.

The other three tracks get downright raucous at times. “Grammy Season” has Laubrock honking over Rainey’s jogging beat and Formanek’s bustling bass while Seabrook chops fierce electric chords like John McLaughlin. Swift and Reid eventually join in to thicken the texture of the music. “Delusions” delves into prog rock intricacies; Seabrook dominates spiky, clockwork rhythms with shuddering runs aided by electronic effects. Meanwhile, Laubrock drops in staccato honks and the other players spark and sputter over the fluttering beat. “Chant II’ exemplifies the entire breadth of the album. It begins with hazy chattering from bowed violin and cello which becomes more unstable as Laubrock joins in, with the sound really getting heavier and menacing when the other three players arrive. The leader lyrically wriggles over the din for a bit, then the music turns into an extended jazz-rock power trio episode with Seabrook’s stabbing notes, Formanek’s furious bass, and Rainey’s stomping drums all writhing furiously.

Laubrock uses the potent abilities of her collaborators to create something daring and fresh here. Musical barriers get obliterated as the players move in and out of genres with amazing ease. This fine album is an excellent example of the wild concepts Ingrid Laubrock’s musical imagination can create.

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