Ingrid Laubrock Oktett - Rote Fabrik, Zürich, 10 December 2011

Fabrikjazz - Sa, 10. Dezember 2011

Ingrid Laubrock Oktett

Ingrid Laubrock, tenor-/sopranosax/composition; Tom Arthurs, trumpet/flügelhorn; Ted Reichman, accordion; Liam Noble, piano; Mary Halvorson, guitar; Ben Davis, cello; Drew Gress, bass; Tom Rainey, drums/percussion

Good but not great concert. The music - all composed by Laubrock, though both set-openers were fully improvised, it seems - left me a bit puzzled. Some of it was good, some of it was a bit on the cute side, some of it just seemed to go nowhere and left me hoping for more improvisational parts. Those improvisational parts were too few, I found. There were plenty of interesting combinations of sound, that's for sure. Mary Halvorson's guitar, Ted Reichman's accordion, Liam Noble's piano (all three had fine solo spots), Ben Davis' cello and Rainey switching to what seemed to be a vibraphone but without the motor turned on (maybe it was a marimba or a large xylophone, I couldn't see it as it was back on stage) - that all made for large sonic and textural possibilities. There were parts when the music made good use of them, but other parts just seemed like lose sketches (and then one of those cutesy melodies would turn up, picked by the cello) and the whole effect was lost again. However, what was great was how different instrumental pairs emerged time and again to form duos within the band for sometimes quite lengthy bits.

Needless to say that Laubrock's tenor and soprano and Tom Arthur's trumpet as the only horns were front and center a bit more often than most others - and both did very well and had some mighty fine spots. Laubrock on tenor has a slightly shady sound - reminded me a bit of Joe Henderson (whom alas I've never heard live). Arthurs went from chopsy highnote stuff that was always lyrical and melodic to harmon mute, plunger, and just producing air sounds and whimsical noises.

And Drew Gress - he was a bit low-fi and low in the mix, too - and Tom Rainey both did a great job anchoring the music. Gress' bass and Davis' cello often merged together to form a bottom that was quite strong, and every now and then the presence of the one allowed the other to do some flageolet playing. Rainey was a bit subdued, too, but had many great moments and in the second set really came to live!

The music was presented in two gap-less sets - of roughly 50 minutes each, I guess (didn't watch the clock). Reinhard Kager from SWR2 was there to present the band and the music and talked a bit too long and explained a bit more that what I found appropriate for an audience that most likely was much more "in the know" than he thought. The concert was the final (I think) stop of this year's SWR "New Jazz Meeting 2011" tour - bits of the three concerts will be broadcast in February and a CD will be released on Intakt as well. Guess it will be interesting to revisit the music and check if the cutesy bits still sound cutesy if you listen on your hifi rather than live. Can make a big difference with music of this kind (also the other way 'round, that great concerts don't work at all on CD).

All in all, I'd have enjoyed it more if there'd been: a) more solo space for individual voices, and b) more tightly-knit (and less clumsy) ensemble parts. But it was still interesting and often pretty good. And it's always a thrill to hear Mary Halvorson, at least for me ... and Tom Rainey is great! First time I caught him live.

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