release date: 31.03.2023 via Pyroclastic Records
Saxophonist/composer Ingrid Laubrock fuses experimental jazz ensemble, avant-rock group, and altered string quartet in one electrifying sextet on her striking new album.
“Laubrock possesses one of the most fetchingly original free-improv styles out there–throaty, gutsy, bravely lyrical–but recently, her composing and arranging have proven as engaging as her soloing.” – Paul de Barros, DownBeat
“As a bandleader, the wildly inventive soprano and tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock shepherds… category-defying projects with a bent toward unconventional instrumentation and disparate style-shifting.” – Brad Cohan, JazzTimes
When saxophonist/composer Ingrid Laubrock titled her arresting new album The Last Quiet Place, she did so fully aware of the fact that there may in fact be no such place. She composed the music on the album having read Kolbert’s books The Sixth Extinction and Under a White Sky, which argue that we are living in the midst of a sixth global mass extinction and that humanity can’t help but alter the world around us. Those ideas resonated with Laubrock at a time when she sought some escape from the tumultuous modern world.
“Kolbert explains that there’s very little in nature that is pure anymore,” Laubrock says. “There is nothing that is untouched or that actually functions as it’s supposed to function. I was thinking of these places that are no longer pristine and I realized that the only quiet place you can look for is within yourself – and even finding that seems impossible much of the time.”
Due out March 31, 2023 via Pyroclastic Records, The Last Quiet Place brings together a stellar sextet that contains within it the potential for a jazz ensemble, an avant-rock band, and a mutated string quartet, varied combinations of which Laubrock employs in her captivating compositions. Joining Laubrock (on tenor and soprano saxophones) are violinist Mazz Swift, cellist Tomeka Reid, guitarist Brandon Seabrook, bassist Michael Formanek, and drummer Tom Rainey.
“I feel like we’re in turmoil all the time,” Laubrock says. “It can be true turmoil or invented turmoil – we’re all addicted to the news cycle and constantly online, having signals sent to our brain that we must be alert and worried at all times, when it actually serves us better not to be. I am always searching to maintain a sense of clarity and focus.” While she readily admits that a quest for an undisturbed quiet place in the outside world inevitably proves illusory, she does manage to find her own spaces of refuge on a more micro level. She conceived much of the music for A Last Quiet Place at times of escape and contemplation – long hikes or bike rides – and it was largely composed at an outdoor table at a local restaurant.
The impetus for this new ensemble came from working with Seabrook in drummer Andrew Drury’s quartet Content Provider, Laubrock says. “I felt that Brandon and I shared an aesthetic of disrupting and fragmenting ideas and connecting several musical strands in our improvisations. When playing with him, I always feel like we almost become one instrument that divides into two, which is really unusual and an aspect that I wanted to let filter into my compositional approach.”
Bassist Formanek, whom Laubrock had long admired, had recently moved back to New York, making the timing ideal to enlist him for the band, and Rainey has long been one of the saxophonist’s closest collaborators. The band originally toured as a quartet, though Laubrock’s recent experiences writing for strings stoked the desire to expand the new ensemble’s possibilities. Swift and Reid are bandmates with bassist Silvia Bolognesi in the trio Hear In Now and ideal as players equally versed in complex written music and adventurous improvisation.
“I like to have extreme possibilities to flip between various combinations and to explore a range of different textures,” Laubrock explains. Those potentials are clear from the outset, as “Anticipation” rotates between different duo and trio combinations, constantly shifting moods and palettes. The piece is the first of a suite loosely based upon the same tone row, along with the shimmering, propulsive title track and the agitated “Delusions.” The raucous, explosive “Grammy Season” is titled as almost a tongue-in-cheek dare to the Academy, as the conflicted halves of the band shift into string quartet mode in the closing moments. “Afterglow” alternates between elegant string writing and snarled, wiry improvisations. “Chant II” is one of a series of modular pieces inspired by speech patterns, previously recorded by Laubrock and Rainey on their 2018 duo outing Utter. If humankind inevitably transforms the world around us, perhaps the notion of “quiet” is the wrong ideal to strive for. Destructive as we may be as a species, we’re also capable of incredible creativity – The Last Quiet Place is a striking example, and a brilliant escape from the noise of the outside world.
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Photo by Nicki Chavoya