Brooklyn-based German saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock
initiated the grouping, pulling together two rising talents on the New York City scene, bassist Stephan Crump
and pianist Cory Smythe
. A first meeting quickly ascertained compatibility and lead swiftly to a recording date. Laubrock's tale, moving from London to become one of the key figures in her adopted hometown, is well known. Crump too is beginning to stretch out on his own having established himself as an integral part of pianist Vijay Iyer
's Trio ,while Smythe hails from a contemporary classical background, but has come to greater prominence as part of drummer Tyshawn Sorey
's various projects.
In consort they generate eleven on-the-fly selections which demonstrate deep listening and keen interaction where nothing is off limits. Though they largely transcend expected roles, there's a chamber sensibility inherent in the instrumentation, and the overall feel is intimate and for the most part introspective, with at times as much silence as sound. Only four cuts break the five-minute barrier, allowing different combinations and moods to emerge.
"Tones For Climbing Plants" provides a good example. After a start involving Crump's resonant pizzicato, saxophone sustains and piano flourishes, the bassist enjoys a passage replete with richly booming notes, latterly accompanied by Laubrock's soprano splutters. That's followed by a series of dramatic exchanges, seemingly surging from nowhere, capped by an eruption of clipped piano runs, completely changing the dynamic of the piece.
Another instance of ostensibly telepathic communication comes on "Sinew Modulations" where a percussive prologue of wooden tapping and hoarse exhalations suddenly shifts to a more conventional give and take. It's the most expansive track, in which the exchanges turns more angular in response to Laubrock's perky staccato, almost conjuring up a jazzy tinge.
While there is an egalitarian ethos, that doesn't mean everyone partakes equally all the time. The title of "Three-Panel" may acknowledge the triptych nature of the interplay where the spotlight swings from Crump's expressive bent notes, which wouldn't seem out of place in something by his sometime employer Iyer, to Laubrock's careening soprano saxophone narrative, and finally to Smythe's exclamatory outbursts in one of the most high energy sections of the album.
As an improviser, one of the special things about Laubrock is how she melds both cool school and fire music tropes into one unique voice. Although on this set it's the former which predominates, she does let off steam on the brief "Bite Bright Sunlight" where the free jazz bravado of her skronk-fuelled tenor bursts into the drawing room.
It's left to the concluding "Inscribed In Trees" to doff the cap towards the tradition, sounding like a modern-day reboot of Jimmy Guiffre's Free Fall
. Like the rest of the disc, it's a supreme case of empathetic music making in which respect doesn't cow either adventure or surprise.