German-born saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and California-born drummer Tom Rainey first met in 2006 at the UK's Cheltenham Jazz festival and began collaborating in 2007 when they recorded the fine Sleepthief (Intakt, 2008) in London, with pianist Liam Noble completing the Sleepthief trio. Laubrock relocated to New York in 2008 to live with Rainey, since when the two have regularly recorded together. In 2010, they married and she became a member of his trio, alongside guitarist Mary Halvorson. The couple first recorded as a duo in May 2013 on And Other Desert Towns (Relative Pitch, 2014). By March 2014, when they recorded another duo album, Buoyancy, towards the end of a seventeen-date tour, they sounded fully conversant with each other's playing habits and instincts.
Compared to And Other Desert Towns on which ten tracks ran for an hour in total, Buoyancy contains just four tracks ranging in length from under six minutes to over sixteen, with a combined playing time just over forty-three minutes. As on its predecessor, the tracks here were freely improvised and that ensured the contrasts between them are as great as the variation in their durations. Ever since Trane's Interstellar Space duo with drummer Rashied Ali, the sax-drums format has been demanding, exposing the players to equal scrutiny, with no hiding place for either. That holds no fear for this couple, who prove themselves more than equal to the task, producing a flawless example of the genre. They never slip into easy routines or habits, but manage to keep coming up with fresh approaches to improvising that generate varied, engaging music.
Buoyancy opens with the twelve-minute title track on which Laubrock immediately reveals her ability to confidently reel off mellow improvised melody lines, ably supported and propelled by subtle cymbal work, the piece being bouncy enough to amply justify its title and the album's. Next up, "Twenty Lanes", the longest track at the heart of the album, is a complete contrast. It opens atmospherically with understated rhythmic playing from Rainey using a light touch on snare and cymbals occasionally augmented by the sound of screwed-up paper, while Laubrock accompanies him with a series of sustained, understated notes that verge teasingly close to inaudible. Gradually, the pair ramp up the intensity level, until the saxophone is very audible and far from mellow, with a strong reedy sound. Musically, this is a marriage made in heaven and we must hope that the two continue to record regularly as a duo.
Comments and Feedback: