In recent decades, tenor and soprano saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock has moved from her native Germany to an extended stay in England to her current American residency. Through the process she has become one of the most inventive members of the international improvising community, a central voice alongside collaborators such as Kris Davis, Mary Halvorson, and Tyshawn Sorey. Laubrock’s playing is marked by a fluent lyricism and subtly shifting timbres that combine or contrast with an explosive inventiveness, qualities that mark her work in all formats—from spontaneous duos to the larger ensembles for her extended compositions. In The Last Quiet Place, she presents a suite of pieces for a mid-sized group that emphasizes varied strings: Mazz Swift’s violin, Tomeka Reid’s cello, Michael Formanek’s foundational bass, guitarist Brandon Seabrook, and drummer Tom Rainey, Laubrock’s husband and musical partner.
Laubrock’s evocation of “the last quiet place” is inspired by author Elizabeth Kolbert’s books Sixth Extinction and Under a White Sky, but the feeling of foreboding isn’t a dominant trait; rather, it’s apparent in the underlay of dissonance in the title movement and in the suspended tremolos of Afterglow. There’s sheer beauty and strong contrast here, as subtle string harmonies and reed timbres match up with fractured edginess, signally embodied in Seabrook’s brilliant electric squall and furious banjo-speed picking. The music reaches its zenith in the longer Chant II, with its strangely elusive, slithering strings, chattering saxophone, and glassy, popping guitar sounds, all reshaped by the circulating patterns of bass and drums.