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Ingrid Laubrock + Aki Takase: Kasumi

Don Phipps By

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Looking into a mirror, one can see a reflection. Holding a mirror up to a mirror, one can see not only one reflection but a series of reflections. Kasumi, a chamber-jazz album from pianist Aki Takase and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, is a lot like that—the compositions form a series of reflections, in this case highlighted by top-drawer abstract music.

Modernism pervades the compositions —five by Takase, three by Laubrock, and four written jointly. Each piece has its own personality but, like layers laid one on top of another, they form a whole that is bolstered by the technical virtuosity of the duo.

Take Takase's clownish "Andalusia," where both musicians run the length of their instruments -Takase from top to bottom of the piano keys and Laubrock moving up and down the neck of the sax —maintaining a brilliant flow with bird-like slurs and a tonguing, stuttering accent. Or "Harlekin," where the initial slappy-dappy motif and its bumpily slow beat suggests a clown who has had one too many but, in the end, resolves with a free-playing finish, reminiscent of a Charlie Chaplin chase scene. Or "Dark Clouds," which begins with echoes of Duke Ellington but finishes with frog-hop leaps across the piano and a sax sound which runs from squawky to pure—sometimes in the same phrase.

Laubrock never takes the easy way out. Her choice of notes indicates a musical mind of the first order—able to anticipate and land with great accuracy, no matter the style, speed, or level of abstraction. Her Jimmy Lyons take on "Scurry" is, in a word, breathtaking. Takase too possesses a multi-skill attack on the piano. She can sprinkle the keys, create punchy notes, form rolling phrases, or fashion impressionistic statements with seeming ease.

Some of the numbers give off a neutral, almost gray vibe—for example, "One Trick Paper Tiger," where Laubrock constructs a cerebral sonic coolness, or her "Sunken Forest," which gives both musicians the wherewithal to offer drifting music bolstered by dark and gentle legato phrases, phrases which imply loneliness or isolation.

Like a stroll through a museum of modern art, where each artist presents a unique perspective that—together with the perspectives of other artists whose works are also displayed—form a comprehensive whole, Kasumi is as much a message of intimacy as it is of expression. Perhaps that's just another reflection within a reflection.

Track Listing: Kasumi; Andalusia; Brookish; Chimera; Harlekin; Dark Clouds; Scurry; Sunken Forest; Density; Win Some, Lose Track; Poe; Carving Water; One Trick Paper Tiger; Luftspiegelung.

Personnel: Ingrid Laubrock: tenor, soprano saxophone; Aki Takase: piano.

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

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