Ingrid Laubrock/Javier Carmona/Olie Brice

Catatumbo
Babel BDV 12103

Tom Rainey Trio

Camino Cielo Echo

Intakt CD 198

Well-travelled, Münster-born saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock is now a Brooklyn resident, but spends time in London, where she was based for two decades, to maintain involvement in bands on both sides of the Atlantic. Recorded six months apart with closely allied personnel, these CDs demonstrate her trans-oceanic skills.

A live date from London’s Vortex club, Catatumbo matches Laubrock with two high-class improvisers with plenty of other axes in the fire. Madrid-born percussionist Javier Carmona spent seven years in London before settling in Barcelona. Besides membership in the London Improvisers Orchestra, he was in a duo with tenor saxophonist Mark Hanslip. UK-native, bassist Olie Brice’s affiliations include a duo with veteran flautist Neil Metcalfe and a band with Hanslip. Meanwhile in a Brooklyn studio, Camino Cielo Echo unites the saxophonist with her husband, drummer Tom Rainey, a Santa Barbara-native now one of New York’s busiest percussionists, who is also part of a Laubrock trio with British pianist Liam Noble. String strength comes from Boston-born guitarist Mary Halvorson, who works with everyone from drummer Weasel Walter to trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum.

Despite the names above the titles, both groups are essentially co-ops. Rainey, the most generous of percussionists, gives both his partners plenty of solo space; plus writing duties for his CD’s 13 tracks are split three ways. Each of the five tracks on the other disc is an instant composition, involving all participants.

Brice’s solid string pumping and angled spiccato work from the back or in the foreground are continuing characteristics of the tunes on Catatumbo. Stretching but never breaking the chromatic interface is a common strategy throughout, especially when the band’s more pensive dialogues come to the fore. Isolated, Brice’s double-gaited pacing, Carmona’s ringing cymbal work and Laubrock’s tongue pops plus choked-air exhalation may be distracting, combined they blend into concentrated narratives. As an individual, Carmona’s percussion on a track like “Ribbons and Beads” consists of cowbell pops, asymmetrical rim and side slapping plus resonating patterning. Climax is reached when his staccato slaps with wire-brush-handles meet up with the bassist’s sul ponticello lines and Laubrock’s jagged eviscerating reed cries. By “Vientos Alisios”, the final track, as the drummer’s bounces plus bass-string sprawls pace her, Laubrock’s sprawling Dolphyesque snarls slide from sharp, altissimo to dampened vibrations. The resulting triple timbres from all are conclusive and calming.

Calm is certainly not the first adjective one would apply to the Rainey trio. With Halvorson in full flight the number of fuzz-encrusted distortions, gnarly and ringing string tones and jagged runs proliferate. Not to be outdone, Laubrock screeches, squeals and splinters pressurized tones from her saxophone, and at times Rainey unleashes a barrage of drags, strokes and flams. His decisive taste prevents that from happening too often however. Nonetheless some of these drum explosions take place, but also in the context of an up-tempo tune such as “Leapfrog”. Simultaneously as the guitarist snaps and vibrates her strings while the saxophonist’s reed biting mutates the theme.

This doesn’t mean that every track is sonically zealous. “Arroyo Burrow” for example features low-key, flute-like glissandi from Laubrock on soprano saxophone, colored by near-folksy plinks from the guitarist and Rainey rolling his sticks on top of his drums and punctuating the exposition with bass drum bangs. Following it, “Strada senza nome’ is a simple tune where the guitarist’s repetative strums could come from a ukulele, and are met by chain-shaking and other percussion vibrations from Rainey. The atmospheric title track outlines a similar sentiment.

Meanwhile cuts such as “Mental Stencil” – as would be expected – and “Two Words” – which may be all of a Metal band’s vocabulary – highlight rougher stances. The latter which binds together pressurized drones from Laubrock, flashing flanges and bent notes from, Halvorson and constant tapping from Rainey, pumps up to further oscillated buzzing from the guitarist and swelling screams from the reedist. A little more restrained, “Mental Stencil” has an exposition divided between intermittent guitar strums and bubbling reed puffs until Rainey’s subtle jabs and cymbal pops pacify first Laubrock into displaying polished tones that are almost cello-like, then encourage single licks from Halvorson, that in context are dance-like. Harmonizing individual outputs, the trio members’ lines eventually and mutually fade to muted interaction.

Significant in trio circumstances, as these CDs confirm, Laubrock’s verve and intelligent improvising serves her in good stead no matter the band size or the improvising context.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Catatumbo: 1. Darkness Rarely Lasted Long 2. Ribbons and Beads 3.The Fabric of Air 4. Cocuyos 5. Vientos Alisios

Personnel: Catatumbo: Ingrid Laubrock (tenor saxophone); Olie Brice (bass) and Javier Carmona (drums)

Track Listing: Camino: 1. Expectation of Exception 2. Mullet Toss 3. Mr and Mrs Mundane 4. Corporal Fusion 5. Arroyo Burrow 6. Strada senza nome 7. A third line into little Miss Strange 8. Leapfrog 9. Camino Cielo Echo 10.Fluster 11. Mental Stencil 12. Two Words 13. June

Personnel: Camino: Ingrid Laubrock (tenor and soprano saxophones); Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Tom Rainey (drums)