Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock has forged an unpredictable path to her place in the New York jazz scene. After growing up in a small town in Germany, Laubrock only picked up the saxophone at age 19 after moving to London. She supported herself by busking and playing in Cuban and Brazilian bands, and eventually completed a jazz performance degree at the Guildhall School. Laubrock became a prominent member of London’s forward-thinking musical community known as the F-IRE Collective, as her music began taking on new, abstract dimensions. Laubrock then met renowned drummer Tom Rainey as he passed through London, and the two began a musical and personal relationship that brought her to New York (they are both partners in bands and in marriage).
Laubrock plays with a host of groups throughout the city, from the collaborative trio “Paradoxical Frog” with pianist Kris Davis and drummer Tyshawn Sorey to guitarist Mary Halvorson’s septet to Anthony Braxton’s groups to her own quintet “Anti-House.” Recently, however, Laubrock has put together a new group called “Nor’easter,” her take on the classic brass band, which features Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Ben Gerstein on trombone, Dan Peck on tuba, and Tom Rainey on drums. This Friday, July 25th, 2014, Laubrock will bring this band to The Jazz Gallery for the second time with a host of fresh and wide-ranging original compositions. We caught up with Ingrid by phone this week to talk about her motivation for putting this group together, and how the group’s music works.
The Jazz Gallery: When you played at The Jazz Gallery last summer, this group was brand new and nameless. How did you come up with the name “Nor’easter?”
Ingrid Laubrock: I actually might get rid of the name again! I’m not completely happy with it. I kind of had to have a name for a grant application that I was writing—“quintet” sounded too lame. I wanted something that had to do with wind gusts and blowing air. But at this point, I think I’m going to scrap the name.
TJG: What drew you to putting together a group of almost all wind instruments?
IL: It was always interesting for me to hear brass bands. I grew up in a small town in Germany, and that was always a big tradition, but it didn’t necessarily interest me at the time. I have been to Brazil and heard brass bands—maracatu bands—and I played a bit in maracatu bands when I lived in England. And being in New York I hear a lot of Mexican brass bands and New Orleans brass bands. I’m fascinated by the sound of these groups, but I didn’t want to write music for a brass group in a traditional way. I wanted to explore all the textures that you can get out of these instruments.
This is a major reason why I chose the musicians I chose for the group. All of them are really great improvisors and interested in figuring out everything you can do with their instruments that isn’t traditional. I can write extended techniques, I can write interesting rhythmic things, I can write with microtones and other weird things; the musicians can play everything that I can think of. I also consciously didn’t want a harmony instrument, so the writing is very linear, very contrapuntal. I’d always composed at the piano because you have everything at your fingertips, but for this group I wanted to try and write just in my head and on my instrument. It was good to have a different approach for this music. (more…)