Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock presents her most ambitious and thorny batch of compositions yet | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock presents her most ambitious and thorny batch of compositions yet



Over the past decade, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock has increasingly used composition to provoke and organize adventurous improvisation. She made a major leap on the knotty 2016 album Serpentines (Intakt). The musical personalities she’s assembled, and the unusual timbres they contribute, represent compositional decisions just as profound as anything she’s put down on the page. The band combines her own grainy, jagged tenor and soprano saxophones, the rubbery low end of tuba player Dan Peck, the skittering intervals of pianist Craig Taborn, the glistening harplike fragments of koto player Miya Masaoka, the fractured throb of drummer Tyshawn Sorey, the cleanly articulated smears and tart curlicues of trumpeter Peter Evans (a guest on the album), and the splintery, refracted signal processing of laptop improviser Sam Pluta. Laubrock’s writing, as strong as it is, never prevents her group from exercising its own creativity. Both parts of “Pothole Analytics,” for example, consist of lean, abstract composed phrases, but they’re collaged spontaneously by the musicians so that the overlap among them shifts with every performance. The corkscrew assemblage of “Squirrels,” on the other hand, makes Laubrock’s hand more audible; its slaloming complexity recalls the book for her group Anti-House as well as Tim Berne’s recent work, and requires each player to navigate its breathless twists and turns with careful precision. The busy arrangement seems to throw off charged solos like electrical arcs, though it’s not all constant motion: in one moment of strange repose, Pluta manipulates Masaoka’s glassy lines to create hall-of-mirrors effects. The darting zigzags of the title track (similar in feel to “Squirrels,” and in fact to most of Serpentines) and the rustling, meditative ambience of “Chip in Brain” give the ensemble a variety of ways to prove it can match Laubrock’s rigor. In the sextet’s Chicago debut (Evans isn’t a member), pianist Kris Davis and drummer Tom Rainey sub for Taborn and Sorey.   v

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