Ingrid Laubrock Quintet: Live at the Progress Bar

Chris May By

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like all successful revolutions, F-IRE's is taking the people with it: the existing audience for cutting edge jazz and a newer, potentially massive audience from the more adventurous end of the rock world.
Ingrid Laubrock Quintet
Progress Bar
April 21, 2005

Being at a F-IRE performance in '05 feels like it must have felt to be at Minton's Playhouse in '41 or the Cavern Club in '63. There's a sense of being somewhere where the future is being written out in front of you. You feel like you're part of something thrilling and revolutionary. And you are.

F-IRE, the London-based musicians' collective - which includes saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock's Quintet, Polar Bear, Acoustic Ladyland, Centripede and Oriole, among other bands - is probably the most exciting creative force anywhere in jazz today. And like all successful revolutions, F-IRE's is taking the people with it: the existing audience for cutting edge jazz and a newer, potentially massive audience from the more adventurous end of the rock world. It sounds like tomorrow and it works like a mojo.

Tonight's gig by the Ingrid Laubrock Quintet (actually Quartet, because cellist Ben Davis was sick and couldn't make it) was something fabulous and very, very special. Much of the band's material was taken from Laubrock's recent, acclaimed album Forensic - although she also introduced two brand new tunes, including the slow burning and unforgettable "The Power Of The Sulk" (of which more later) - but with a slightly different lineup. Barry Green has now replaced Karim Merchant on piano and Sebastian Rochford (leader of Polar Bear and anchor of Acoustic Ladyland) has replaced Tom Skinner on drums. Bassist Larry Bartley remains from the old line-up, and Davis makes five.

The new lineup is just heavenly, and Laubrock - moving between tenor and soprano tonight - is clearly loving it. The cerebral, harmonically adventurous strand of her playing continues to thrive, supported by and bounced off Green's trippy, deep space runs, while her parallel talent for visceral, raucous passion reaches new heights (and low down dirty depths) in response to Rochford's explosive and brilliantly intuitive postmodern beats.

Some of the evening's finest moments came during the two previously unperformed tunes - "The Power Of The Sulk" and another so new it isn't even titled yet - both of which included tenor/drums dialogues that made the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. On "Sulk" Rochford focused on the snare drum, creating wave after wave of mutant martial rhythms, a veritable rising decibel orgasmotron over which Laubrock blew a torrent of razor sharp, angry phrases, moving between technically jaw-dropping top-end harmonics and what can only be described as mellifluous deep bass burps (this latter style motif is something she also brought memorably to the baritone sax during her London performances with the Grand Union Orchestra back in November).

Other stand out tunes played tonight were Forensic's "Stone Lions," "Monologue Man" (which Laubrock says is for "those who have mouths but no ears" and which featured more fierce tenor/drums interplay), "Clara" and "Forensic" itself. Like Laubrock and Rochford, Green and Bartley were joyous to listen to throughout. Green's harmonic explorations are unfailingly out there, searching for and usually finding new routes and new destinations, while Bartley is rock steady, moving between hard driving, slap bass percussiveness and gorgeously lyrical arco lines.

A night to remember, and then some. Laubrock is back at the aptly named Progress Bar - a congenial new jazz venue above a pub in London's Tufnell Park area, run for love rather than money by singer Christine Tobin - on 26 May, this time as part of Monica Vasconcelos' NOIS4. A very different kind of band, and in its own way just as magical.

Visit Ingrid Laubrock on the web.

Photo Credit
Leonie Purchas

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