Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock
and Canadian pianist Kris Davis
recognized each other as kindred spirits early on after the German's move to New York City. They have remained close collaborators ever since. So much so that it's almost a surprise that this is their first record as a twosome. They've honed their shared sensibilities in Laubrock's Anti-House, Davis' Capricorn Climber and co-operatives such as Paradoxical Frog and LARK. And it's that sense of being entirely on each other's wavelength which makes this date such a success.
In a program of seven originals (four from Laubrock and three from Davis) and two collectives, they weave a mysterious web between composition and improvisation. Predetermined unisons spring from seemingly unfettered interplay in such a way as to keep the listener guessing, both as to what's notated and what's on- the-fly, and indeed what might be coming next. Davis' "Snakes And Lattices" offers a perfect illustration of the intrigue afoot as a series of perky angular phrases, which call to mind Anthony Braxton
, edge into a breathless two-way dash. The cut finishes with Davis' nagging stutter in the bass register which speaks of the influence of both Morton Feldman and Cecil Taylor
, answered by Laubrock's breathy tenor sustains. Already the distinction between intent and serendipity is blurred.
Davis predilection for repeated motifs engenders structure, while her mining of the opposite reaches of the keyboard creates some striking contrasts, not to mention the pleasing juxtapositions of her bottom end thump and Laubrock's piping soprano. Both women have the knack of sculpting lines which avoid easy resolution. That gives those occasions when they do come together, like the warm intimate hugging chords which pepper the woozy microtonal contours of the title cut, all the more heft.
Laubrock shuns the extremes within her oblique narratives other than for expressive emphasis, being at her most volatile on the spontaneous "Gunweep," where she mixes effervescent plosives, chuckling quacks and filigree scrolls. Davis' nervy tremolos and sweeping glissandos keep pace and as the piece ends they shadow each other closely. Such is the connection between them that pieces like this could easily pass as scored.
Davis' "Golgi Complex" (given a very different readings to the two versions on her acclaimed Diatom Ribbons
) constitutes one of the standouts. It begins with jittery interchange between soprano and piano. Davis again supplies the framework as Laubrock stretches out, and then joins with a freeflowing right hand while her left continues to hold down an emphatic rhythmic feel. Eventually, a bluesy four note riff in the bass materializes, against which Laubrock Morse codes urgently on one pitch as the pianist gradually diverges. It's a delicious moment.
Even the more understated numbers reveal hidden depths, whether it's Davis' "Flying Embers" which pulls the listener into a somber hushed droney landscape, interleaved with increasingly prevalent dainty piano figures, like dancing fireflies, or the extemporized ballad of "Elephant In The Room," drawn gossamer thin. After a similarly restrained star,t Laubrock's concluding "Jagged Jaunts" surges into a rollicking accord which, like the album, is over all too soon.
Snakes And Lattices; Blood Moon; Gunweep; Flying Embers; Whistlings; Maroon; Golgi Complex; Elephant In The Room; Jagged Jaunts.