Ingrid Laubrock – ‘Contemporary Chaos Practices – Two Works for Orchestra with Soloists’ (Album Review)

German saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, a musician who usually works in relatively small jazz groups, is now taking her vision to the orchestra. With two pieces full of engrossing discord and a contemporary fusion with traits of classical music and avant-garde jazz improvisation, Contemporary Chaos Practices is an extremely apt title. The soloists featured include Laubrock and other musicians that are a part of the New York City experimental jazz scene where the saxophonist is a mainstay: Kris Davis (piano), Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Nate Wooley (trumpet).

The title piece is dark, cinematic and unnerving. It begins with a bang – literally – and then moves into an ominous cycle of blaring horns. The repetition is rapid, to the point where the horns seem to be swarming like an angry hive of bees. The first soloist here is Halvorson, who is given a temporarily hornless space for her knotty guitar work.

Laubrock’s time in the spotlight contains swift and visceral passages. The saxophonist creates some of the records’ most enthralling moments by wildly reacting to the writhing atmosphere of horns and strings that surrounds her. Later on, the composition momentarily becomes conventionally melodic and pretty before contorting itself. Everything combines to form one massive twisted wall of sound – and then explodes. The whole orchestra is a fascinating pandemonium.

The second piece, “Vogelfrei”, does not offer much reprieve for those who are searching for something a bit more lighthearted. The piece opens with an eerie, white noise-like approach from the string section. The palpable tension is cut through by Davis, whose icy piano contributes a delicate cascade of notes. Davis’ playing is key throughout “Vogelfrei”, at times acting as an ethereal soothing eye in the center of Laubrock’s storm of a composition.

Although it is brief, the haunting vocal part of “Vogelfrei” is a standout point of the album. After “Contemporary Chaos Practices”, where Laubrock was primarily focused on unsettling soundscapes, the choral beauty in “Vogelfrei” comes off as surprising and left-field. It’s captivating moments like this that make Contemporary Chaos Practices such an accomplishment. Laubrock’s orchestral work is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the modern avant-garde, regardless of whether it comes from a jazz or classical perspective.

Contemporary Chaos Practices – Two Works for Orchestra with Soloists, the latest album from saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, is out now in Intakt Records.

Mary Halvorson: Guitar
Kris Davis: Piano
Nate Wooley: Trumpet
Ingrid Laubrock: Saxophone
Conductor 1: Eric Wubbels
Conductor 2: Taylor Ho Bynum
Bass: Greg Chudzik, Pat Swoboda; Bassoon: Nanci Belmont, Dana Jessen; Cello: Talia Dicker, Maria Hadge, Katinka Kleijn; Clarinet, Bass Clarinet: Joshua Rubin, Katie Schoepflin; Contrabass Clarinet, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet: Bohdan Hilash; Flutes, Piccolo: Michel Gentile; Flute, Piccolo, Bass Flute: Zach Sheets; French Horn: Elizabeth Fleming, John Gattis; Oboe: Christa Robinson; Oboe, English Horn: Katie Scheele; Percussion: Tim Feeney, Clara Warnaar; Trombone: Jacob Garchik, Mike Lormand; Trumpet, Piccolo Trumpet: Gareth Flowers; Tuba: Dan Peck; Viola: Dominic DeStefano, Hannah Levinson, Miranda Sielaff; Violin: Sam Bardfeld, Maya Bennardo, Jean Cook, Erica Dicker, Mark Feldman (Vogelfrei only), Sarah Goldfeather (Contemporary Chaos Practices only), Megan Gould, Elena Moon Park, Mazz Swift; Vocalists: Roland Burks, Tomas Cruz, Chris DiMeglio, Walker J Jackson, Amirtha Kidambi, Kyoko Kitamura, Emilie Lesbros, Kamala Sankaram; Amplified Contrabass Clarinet: Josh Sinton (Vogelfrei only)

Compositions and copyright by Ingrid Laubrock (PRS/MCPS).
Recorded December 15 and 16, 2017, by Ron Saint Germain at
Power Station, Berklee NYC. Assisted by Neal Shaw, Gloria Kaba
and Josh Taylor. Mixed by Ron Saint Germain at Saint’s Place, Kinnelon, NJ. Mastered April 30, 2018, by Scott Hull at Masterdisk,
Peekskill, NY. Cover art and graphic design: Jonas Schoder/Malene
Bach. Photos: Helmut Berns. Video stills: Merve Kayan. Liner notes:
Steve Smith. Recording produced by Ingrid Laubrock and David
Breskin. Intakt Records, Patrik Landolt, Anja Illmaier, Florian Keller,
P. O. Box 468, 8024 Zürich, Switzerland.