Ingrid Laubrock: The Last Quiet Place

★★★★

Inspired by the Pulitzer-prizewinning writings of environmental journalist Elizabeth Kolbert, much-lauded German saxophonist/composer Ingrid Laubrock composed most of the music for The Last Quiet Place in solitude and outdoors – but if she was feeling that the imagination might be the last quiet place as humankind noisily erodes a fragile natural world outside, this powerful album confirms she wasn’t intending a music of tranquil withdrawal. Laubrock’s ever-expanding compositional vision forms a genre-fluid super-sextet here, all six members capable of shifting seamlessly between free-jazz, avant-rock, and delicate classical-strings textures.

The subtly-structured, jazz/classical ‘Anticipation’ epitomises the album’s broad palette, opening with soft arco-strings sighs against lustrous guitar chords, passing through an agile free-jazz dialogue between Laubrock’s circuitous tenor improv and Michael Formanek’s shadowing bass flutters, and ending on close-written interplay between melodic exclamations and long-tone harmonies. ‘Grammy Season’ is a terrific outburst of jostling free-jazz, and the title track a soft-strummed guitar groove from the orchestrally-resourceful Brandon Seabrook that becomes a swaying reverie with Tom Rainey’s unobtrusive percussion beneath and Laubrock’s airborne soprano lines above. ‘Afterglow’ is a slow tenor/drums conversation wrapped in warm strings harmonies, and the long ‘Chant II’ – one of a series inspired by speech patterns that Laubrock and Rainey recorded as a duo on 2018’s Utter – swaps buzzing abstract-strings flurries, rugged tenor-led ensemble surges, bleepy guitar passages, and a stealthy film-noirish finale. Laubrock’s openness to so many contemporary sounds at once seems to have hit a new level.

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