When All About Jazz first interviewed saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, in 2005, she said: "The older I get the weirder I feel the music is going to be. I have a feel of where it's going and I know it's going to get less and less commercial." The next album Laubrock released, Let's Call This.... (Babel, 2006)with pianist Liam Noblewas an intimate, lyrical disc which was, if anything, more accessible than its immediate predecessor, the structured yet visceral quintet recording Forensic (F-IRE, 2004). But good things come to those who wait.
Laubrock delivered on her prediction with her next release as leader. On the deep and compelling Sleepthief (Intakt, 2008), made with Noble and drummer Tom Rainey, she focused on exploring the sonic boundaries of her instruments and the outer reaches of wholly spontaneous, free interaction with her colleagues. The album took Laubrock far into uncharted territory, and that, sad to say, almost inevitably does mean "less commercial." Early reports of the saxophonist's latest, New York-based band suggest she is maintaining the trajectory (see this positive, if in places rather strange, review in The New York Times from January 2010).
Sol6 isn't a Laubrock-as-leader albumshe's one of six musicians in an international line-up led by pianist Veryan Weston, a veteran explorer of the outer limits with a well documented career on the British label Emanem, and bassist Luc Ex. But any new disc featuring Laubrock, whose prodigious talent is of a scale which only rarely comes along, and who remains woefully under-recorded, is to a large extent a Laubrock event.
Sol6 features her prominently. It is, in the main, like Sleepthief, "less commercial" and "weird." That is to say: massively singular, risk-taking and unfettered. Recorded live at the Bimhuis Amsterdam in spring 2009, the band also includes violist Mandy Drummond, best known for her work with vibraphonist Orphy Robinson's Nubian Vibes Ensemble, cellist Hannah Marshall, and drummer Tony Buck of The Necks. (A larger ensemble, including all the Sol6 musicians, toured Europe as Sol12 in 2009: see the YouTube clip below). The set list is a mix of freely improvised pieces, tunes written by Weston and Ex, and covers of Burt Bacharach's "Close To You" and Charles Ives' "The Cage" and "Sick Eagle," all sequenced to form something resembling a suite.
The music is restless and inquisitive and moves between astringent lyricism and fractured high-voltage grooves, making few concessions to norms, particularly those applying to chamber music. "And The World Might B Flat After All," "Autistic African Samba" and "Insecurity" are rowdy, dangerous and beat-centric. In an atypical example of the retro-modern, the slow burning "Nodd" resonates with the astral jazz of saxophonists John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders as it emerged in the mid-1960s. The Erik Satie-derived "Chanson Hollandaise" and Bacharach's "Close To You" (a vocal vignette for Drummond which is read deliciously straight) provide more emollient moments.
Sol6 is a group affair, with striking contributions from all six players, but for the reasons noted above, it is of particular interest as a Laubrock recording. As such, the album channels the lowdown grooves of Forensic through the sonic experimentation and collective improvisation of Sleepthief to produce another landmark disc in the saxophonist's burgeoning career.
Tracks: Some Things Must Stay; And The World Might B flat After All; Uncaged; The Cage; Miniature 1; Brain Boilingly Obvious; Chanson Hollandaise; Leg Room In The First Class; Amputation In Economy; Nood; Close To You; Brain Boilingly Obvious 2; Sick Eagle; Autistic African Samba; Brain Boilingly Obvious 3; Insecurity; Miniature 2.
Personnel: Ingrid Laubrock: saxophone; Mandy Drummond: viola, voice; Hannah Marshall: cello, voice; Veryan Weston: piano, voice; Luc Ex: acoustic bass; Tony Buck: drums.