Album review

Ingrid Laubrock – ‘The Last Quiet Place’

Ingrid Laubrock –  The Last Quiet Place 

(Pyroclastic Records PR24. Album review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

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Since relocating to New York from London, Ingrid Laubrock has created an impressive body of work.  If her early albums recorded in London and a commission from the Cheltenham Jazz Festival showed her potential as a composer, she has progressed by leaps and bounds in recent years in New York. 

Her work with duos and trios and that for larger ensembles are equally strong, and this latest project for a sextet with two string players is a gem.  The album and its title are based on Laubrock’s feeling that ‘we’re all addicted to the news cycle and constantly online’, and her quest to ‘maintain a sense of clarity and focus‘.

The music, however, is neither gentle nor meditative; there is a wide range of moods throughout the album, and a particular feature of the compositions and their structure is that the mood often changes more than once and often quite radically within a piece.  In Chant 11, for example, the first part is based on a previous composition of Laubrock’s and Rainey’s that mimics speech patterns, and begins with a kind of conversation between cello and violin, which other members of the ensemble gradually join. It then moves into a passage of collective improvisation in which the players react in the moment to what others are playing; this is followed by a written passage based on call and response in the ensemble; finally, it moves into and concludes with the chant of the title, which builds a simple repetitive melody.

In the sextet Laubrock is joined by her long standing partner Tom Rainey on drums, and two other key partners in Brandon Seabrook on guitar and Michael Formanek on double bass.  They are joined by two string players, cellist Tomeka Reid with whom Laubrock has toured recently in Myra Melford’s quintet, and violinist Mazz Swift.  The interaction between Laubrock and Seabrook works particularly well, and their gritty improvisations are often contrasted with the more melodic approach of the string players working as a duo or as a trio with Formanek.

The track Afterglow provides a good example of this; it begins with an elegant string melody, but then goes into a spiky improvisation involving saxophone, guitar and drums.  It then returns to the opening melody, but with the rest of the group joining.  The title track, The Last Quiet Place, follows a similar pattern opening with an attractive melody from the violin and guitar before it breaks down into a series of different configurations led by Laubrock on soprano saxophone.

The greater part of Grammy Season is played by the saxophone, guitar, bass and drums, and develops what seems like a witty response to the excesses of Grammy ceremonies.  Towards the end the strings enter and dominate, accompanied by guitar and drums, and occasionally the saxophone before the track winds down.

This is another important album from Laubrock; possibly her best yet.  It certainly provides an excellent example of how composition and free improvisation can be integrated.

The Last Quiet Place – available on Bandcampis released today 31 March 2023

Categories: Album review, Reviews

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