We previously spoke with composer and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock several times: about her 2015 Residency Commission Series premiere concerts, again in the summer of 2014 when the band returned under the name “Nor’easter,” and we when she released her Ubatuba record in 2015. She will return to the Jazz Gallery this Friday, October 21, with her band Anti-House 4, which also includes Mary Halvorson on guitar, Kris Davis on piano, and Tom Rainey on drums. We caught up with Ingrid by phone; here are excerpts from that conversation.
Ingrid Laubrock: We’re driving through Oregon, through some severe weather, but it turned out to not be so severe after all [laughs], so we can talk now!
The Jazz Gallery: Oh, good! The group you’re playing with is Anti-House 4, your usual band minus the bass. Why did you pick that iteration for this concert?
IL: Last year when I was doing my big Jazz Gallery commission, I wrote a bunch of trio music for one of the days. Since that music has not been played by anyone since, and since the bassist couldn’t make the gig, I decided to resurrect the trio and perform with something else, by adding Tom Rainey.
We’ll be playing the compositions that I wrote for the Jazz Gallery commission last year, which will be new to us, because we haven’t actually played i, in this band. And what I will also do is add a couple of pieces from the full Anti-House repertoire.
TJG: You’ve been with this band for quite a while. How has the music changed as you’ve gotten to know the musicians better?
IL: I think once you know people’s voices, you kind of write differently, you tend to have them in mind when you compose. I kind of write for them, where there will be a sound and a feel, and make sure I write room to explore together, basically.
TJG: How do you feel that your compositions change with different instrumentations and different bands, since you have some very chordal bands and some that are horn-heavy?
IL: Yes. I think it’s a number of different things. I sometimes write pieces that are off instrumentation, they’re not really geared towards any particular orchestration. They tend to be more changable, so I’m experimenting with that. For other groups, for example my Ubatuba, which is saxophone, brass, and drums, I wrote all the material on my saxophone or in my head. When I write for groups like Anti-House I often compose at the piano. That changes a little bit how all the music turns out, I think. But even having chordal instruments in my groups—like in Anti-House I now have two chordal instruments—I don’t tend to use it in a heavily kind of vertical way, I think much more horizontal, using lines rather than stacks of chords.
TJG: So do you often start with melodies?
IL: I often take really varying approaches with different pieces. Sometimes I hear a melody and in that case I will write a melody. Other times I will just pick around a lot of material to choose from and play around with cells, or intervals. And then there’s other times where I have a big sonic structure in my head, and I will try and write down the shapes of where this music needs to go to, rather than melodies or chords.
TJG: How do you build improvisation into that?
IL: Improvisation’s always very open. Occasionally I’ll have a vamp, but even if I have vamps, I tend to make them quite long, so they don’t really feel that much like vamps. Most of the improvisation is open so the musicians who play with me can explore in different ways every time we play it. Other times, I prescribe the combinations of musicians that improvise. A few times, I write in cells of the notes that I want to hear at that point, but most of the time I leave improvisation up to the musicians.
TJG: You moved from the U.K. to New York a number of years ago. How do you feel about both places?
IL: London’s a great place too, but New York is just that much more of everything, of any other city, actually, that I’ve ever encountered. There’s just so many different scenes, and so many different types of musicians, and people work very hard at their art, whatever craft they might be doing, they spend a lot of time, they’re very serious about it. I have been in Berlin, and in London too, but the scenes are smaller.
TJG: This is going to be one of many shows you’ve played at the Jazz Gallery. What do you think is special about the venue to you?
IL: I really like the dedication of Rio and everybody who works there. You can feel the love for music and the love for the art. I like the changes and the new direction it has undergone through out the years, especially since they’ve got a place for themselves, you know. You just feel like they’re trying to welcome people, to draw them into the music, and they’re just dedicated to that.
Ingrid Laubrock plays at The Jazz Gallery this Friday, October 21. Her group, Anti-House 4, features Ms. Laubrock on saxophones, Mary Halvorson on guitar, Kris Davis on piano, and Tom Rainey on drums. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. each night. $22 general admission ($12 for members) for each set. Purchase tickets here.