Tom Rainey, Mary Halvorson, Ingrid Laubrock: Combobulated

Don Phipps By

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Recorded live in 2017 in New Haven, Connecticut at restaurant, watering hole, and music space Firehouse 12, Tom Rainey's Combobulated attests to the genius of three of the leading innovative music makers on the scene today. Rainey's collaborative music with saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and guitarist Mary Halvorson offer up sound explosions and introspections that unzip and fragment consciousness.

Rainey's muscular drumming explores timbres, shades, velocity, and ferociousness—sometimes simultaneously. Yet he can just as easily remain in the background, camouflaged behind Laubrock and Halvorson's outbursts of creativity. Halvorson offers up sound effects which, per her usual output, seek to redefine what one might think of the sound of the guitar. Laubrock rips and roars: this is someone that says "no quarter given" in her playing and means it. But there is also a gentle side to her playing, and the mix of the two enlightens her abstractions.

The opening of "Fact" is a case in point. Beginning with an intense statement by Laubrock and Halvorson, the piece evolves into a ramble of Rainey's thumps, bops, and bangs. Halvorson's guitar sonics follow while Laubrock reverts to a single note. As the piece reaches its halfway point, all hell breaks loose: Laubrock's alto and Halvorson's guitar do the body electric while Rainey keeps a propelling cymbal rhythm that emerges into all-over drumming like a runaway train.

On "Isn't Mine," Laubrock and Halvorson engage in statements that flutter, trill, and shift sound around Rainey's bass drum thumps and cymbal work. Laubrock generates fascinating flute sounds on alto saxophone while Halvorson adds string vibrations that stretch out like a rubber band being pulled slowly back and forth.

No piece is more atmospheric than "Torn Road." Halvorson's twangy guitar notes stand out over Laubrock's long, deep droning notes on tenor. Rainey helps along with a tick-tock rim dance that turns into a thunderous rumble.

It is difficult to find artists in contemporary music doing more innovative things to expand the vocabulary of jazz than these three musicians. To get to hear them play together, as one does on Combobulated, is an extreme treat.

Track Listing

Combobulated; Point Reyes; Fact; Isn’t Mine; Splays Itself; Torn Road.


Mary Halvorson: guitar; Ingrid Laubrock: saxophones; Tom Rainey: drums.

Album information

Title: Combobulated | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Intakt Records



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