Reviews Of Albums By Ingrid Laubrock + Andy Milne, Under The Surface And Jacob Garchik

Ingrid Laubrock + Andy Milne  Fragile Intakt Records

Ingrid Laubrock has been recording a series of duo albums with pianists; the first two were with Aki Takase and Kris Davis, and the latest is with Andy Milne.  Ingrid is a key member of the more experimental jazz community in New York, playing and touring with groups led by Tom Rainey and Myra Melford as well as with her own groups. Andy Milne was a key member of groups led by Steve Coleman; to me he has seemed quiet recently, so it is good to hear him in this intimate context.  I find it to be a totally absorbing album which moves between more melodic tracks and more experimental tracks, but one that is always attractively interactive, gently at times, energetically at others.  The tracks are mostly relatively short at about 4 to 5 minutes with a couple of longer tracks and one shorter, but they pack a lot of music into each track.  The album begins with Equanimity, which sets the mood for the album; it is thoughtful, intimate, but gradually builds up the tension.  Fragment moves into a more experimental mode beginning with fluttering sounds on the soprano saxophone which continue through the track with a percussive sound on the piano. Ingrid returns to this fluttering sound on the final two tracks, Kintsugi and Splinter and Andy responds with a similar percussive effect sounding at times like a xylophone.   Overall, the tracks seem to alternate between more melodic pieces, such as Fragile, and more experimental tracks, such as Shard.

Under The Surface  Miin Triuwa   Jazz In Motion

Under The Surface is a Dutch trio featuring Sanne Rambags on vocals, Bram Stamhouders on guitar and Joost Lijbaart on drumsThey played Birmingham last December as part of a UK tour.  One memory of that date in Birmingham was that the trio, especially Sanne, were very happy to be staying in a hotel, The Plough & Harrow on the Hagley Road, that has a plaque noting that writer J.R.R. Tolkien had stayed in the hotel, and this interest led to a short post-gig tour of various sites in Edgbaston associated with Tolkien, notably the towers that were the inspiration of The Two Towers part of The Lord of the Rings.   I mention this because their music, although it has absolutely no connection to Tolkien or his novels, has something of the magic and the mystery of his writing. In Birmingham the trio performed a number of songs in the Old Dutch language that they had recorded in April of last year, and these are presented on all the tracks on this, the latest album made by the group.  These have a special sound coming from this medieval form of the Dutch language, which is a little guttural, but softened by Rambags’ attractive voice.  The sleeve notes are very useful in that they have the text of the songs plus the English translation.  The music is unique with its mysterious air and the brilliant interaction between the members of the trio.

Jacob Garchik Assembly Yestereve Records

Trombonist/composer Jacob Garchik is another key member of the creative jazz scene in New York. He has created amazing albums including The Heavens, based on the trombone gospel choirs working in churches on the east coast of the USA and performed by what Garchik names the Atheist Gospel Trombone Choir, Ye Olde based on Heavy Metal and Clear Line, which has music for a conventional saxophone, trumpet and trombone big band line up, but without the rhythm section.

In Assembly, recorded during lockdown, Garchik has returned to the more or less standard modern jazz small group format, with two horns (Garchik and Sam Newsome on soprano sax)and piano (Jacob Sacks), bass (Thomas Morgan)and drums (Dan Weiss). However, this is far from a conventional modern jazz album in that Garchik has created a studio album by, firstly, recording several hours of music and then selecting the final material, and, secondly, bringing the musicians back to create overdubs and intrusions into the original playing. In the press release accompanying the album, Garchik states that he has always been puzzled by the way jazz albums are recorded: ‘even in experimental jazz, most of the time the studio is used to record a kind of idealized snapshot of a performance – people present complete takes, rarely overdub, and use the studio to clean up performances, rather than radically alter them.

The approach is immediately apparent in the first track, Collage, which alternates between a group improvisation and a much stronger and louder overdubbed melodic line which enters and interrupts the flow of the group improvisation. Similarly, Fantasia begins with an unusual deep bass sound generated by the attachment of a plastic hose to the neck of the soprano sax, but moves into a series of swing passages played by Garchik over the rhythm section, which in turn are interrupted by overdubs of the manipulated saxophone sound.

Other approaches include on Bricolage the selection of passages of Morgan’s bass solos to create loops for Newsome to improvise over, and in a similar manner, on Idee Fixe Garchik takes a repeated motif played by Sacks to create a line for the horns that punctuates the ongoing piano solo. Pastiche features a very fast boppish tune that leads into a trombone solo over the rhythm section, and finishes with an even faster rendition of the head.

It’s a fascinating album, full of surprises and some good humour, but it is not one for the jazz or bebop police.

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