(Vortex, Tuesday 18th January, 2011, review by Geoff Winston,
photo credit: Lena Adesheva)
Ingrid Laubrock has regularly appeared at the Vortex for almost 20 years, so, as an adoptive New Yorker (since 2008), she announced that it is “especially good to bring my new life over.” And she couldn’t have brought more congenial company for the current tour of the UK, Austria and Holland than guitarist Mary Halvorson, drummer Tom Rainey and bassist Jon Hébert.
Each of her pieces for this group encompassed tense yet fluid patterns – and avoided any complacent stasis. As a friend noted, it was “free-sounding, but not free.” At the end of each piece, the band would re-order their long sheets of Laubrock’s notation, while the composer herself would let her own lengthy score cascade from her music stand to the floor. Laubrock’s compositions work their way through many themes, at times recalling Jean Françaix’s finely structured, yet quirkily idosyncratic pieces for sax from the 1920s. These are demanding works with which this well-attuned group, with its light and sensitive touch, were completely comfortable, giving each a platform for their own voices within complex overall schemata.
An initial guitar and bass duet set a quiet tone which was left behind with a fierce interjection from Rainey. Jon Hébert worked behind the scenes to maintain the rhythm and Tom Rainey used hands, mallets, and the kit’s metal so that his percussive range added to Laubrock’s confidently fluid and occasionally fiery passages. Mary Halvorson’s nimble, single-note fretwork, oblique and spikey, and her almost inaudible strums alongside Rainey’s melodic solo, briefly turned into grungy riffs or followed a funky episode; with Hébert’s drawn-out threads and tumbling runs they confirmed a confident maturity which created a bed for Laubrock’s beautifully bright and expressive tenor. Rainey’s glockenspiel made bright pinpoints of sound in ‘Tom Can’t Sleep’ (about his jetlag, said Laubrock!).
There was an arrested momentum, a pulling back, as they led in to ‘Anti-House’, and the “sleep-inspired” ‘Snooze’ was structured on deliberate pauses throughout, as though waiting for the notes to arrive.
Liam Noble, long-time Laubrock collaborator, joined the group for the last two numbers, flipped between the keyboard and the piano strings, and gave the quartet a fascinating fifth dimension towards the end of the evening.
A great atmosphere at the Vortex, again; truly enjoyable listening.
This gig was recorded for future broadcast by BBC Radio 3’s Jazzon3
The CD Anti-House is on the Swiss label Intakt Records