Ingrid Laubrock–one of the most unique and talented saxophonists of her generation–led a riveting performance at Cornelia Street Cafe last night. Her band Anti-House includes a number of outstanding musicians: Mary Halvorson (guitar), Kris Davis (piano), Sean Conly (bass–replacing the usual John Hebert), and Tom Rainey (drums).
The band itself is interesting with just one horn up front and four versatile players who can add texture, tone, and energy in ready amounts. It is an ambitious project and one that has many moving parts, but came together stunningly as they played songs from their recent record, Strong Place (Intakt Records, 2013), the band’s sophomore release from earlier this year. The music covered two sets of three songs a piece totaling nearly two hours of forward-looking creative jazz.
Laubrock’s compositions are complex and play with interactivity between musicians on a sophisticated scale. She is adept at creating both resonance and dissonance simultaneously in a manner that seems both balanced and constantly fluctuating such that the musical voices of the players meld, divide, coalesce, and become volatile, all woven together like a tapestry.
Laubrock creates and destroys musical solar systems at will, through her composing. There is an internal pulse in her music that operates on a macro-scale, manifested through moments of tight togetherness, when the music’s internal gravity seems to have its way, and supernova moments, when the shifting pieces all seem to expand and shift in their relation to one another. Thus, there are multiple layers of time embedded in her music that the audience can observe and absorb–the intricate intense super-moments, the oscillating beats of the rhythms, and finally the broader expansion and contraction that breathes through the songs.
The pieces themselves were varied and showcased the individual talents of the musicians as well as their ability to play very well together. The opening song began gently with piano and drums, morphing into a dark drone produced by the other three players from which Laubrock shot like a bullet into driving lines. The piece–the longest of the night–displayed shifting moods and tempos and intriguing interactions between the leader and each of the other players. Rainey and Laubrock have a particularly inspiring vocabulary developed through years of playing together. The song concluded with a burning guitar solo by Halvorson, showing off her myriad talents at bending pitches and offering quick, driving lines both powerful and decisive.
The second piece opened with a solo by Rainey that played like magic as if in this primordial musical moment, he was conjuring up existence. He ushered in the other musicians and they coalesced into a mellow, if foreboding exploration of resonance and dissonance. It was precisely this tension, through which Laubrock crafted a work of stunning beauty. The last song of the first set shifted the mood with Davis and Halvorson offering surges of energy like points of light dancing in a whirlwind, fading into a momentary group interaction that ultimately sent Laubrock tearing forward. The saxophonist’s driving lines cut brilliantly across a menagerie of rhythms and textures.
The second set picked up steadily where the first one ended. The first song showcased Halvorson’s talents as a soloist. Conly, too, was afforded some room, drawing attention to his warm, bedrock sound. The song juxtaposed group moments with interesting duets. The final two pieces (the last of which was dedicated to Henry Threadgill) included Laubrock’s boldest moments, often supported with necessary amounts of tension from Davis.
Throughout the night, the music formed a tight looseness: the band members were in sync with one another every step of the way, but seemed not to require overt displays of control. Laubrock’s impressive talents, both as a performer and a composer, were in the spotlight as she continues to be one of the most confident and cutting-edge musicians on the New York scene.
Ingrid Laubrock next plays tonight with Tom Rainey’s new band Obbligato (also with Kris Davis, Ralph Alessi, and Drew Gress), which will dissect standards at Cornelia Street Cafe. Doors open at 8:30 for two sets at 9 and 10:30 pm.