Gerald Moore, the celebrated British pianist of the last century, caught the essence of the accompanist’s role in the witty title of his autobiography, Am I Too Loud? Hearing saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and percussionist Tom Rainey in concert Friday (September 30) at Bread & Salt in Barrio Logan, I could not imagine either performer posing Moore’s solicitous question.
Bold, brassy, and unstintingly propulsive, this New York City avant-garde duo expounded their bracing alchemy of industrial jazz for the season opener of Bonnie Wright’s Fresh Sound 2016 fall season. Laubrock’s bottomless mimosa of melodic invention leaned heavily on athletic, angular riffs punctuated by vigorous articulation. Sweet lyricism proved a rare diversion, although she approached this mode when she switched from tenor to soprano saxophone. On the other hand, various extended techniques, notably roiling multiphonics, provided welcome contrasts to her assertive tenor sax mode.
Master percussionist Rainey did everything to his basic drum kit that is considered acceptable in polite society. Sticks, mallets, and brushes, as well as the palms of his hands coaxed myriad sounds from drumheads and suspended cymbals. At one point in mid-performance, he took apart the hi-hat and placed one of the cymbals on top of a drum to obtain another percussive color. After the intermission, he brought with him an empty plastic water bottle which he crumpled slowly for added rhythmic accent.
The duo’s opening work turned into a nonstop, 40-minute improvisation that became the program’s entire first half. This musical excursion lacked neither contrast nor invention, but offered ample display of technical finesse for each performer. Considering the marked timbral differences between the wind instrument and drums, these performers created an unexpected sonic integration and surprising sense of equality.
After intermission, the duo was joined by San Diego bass maestro Mark Dresser, another singular voice who expanded their already complex textures. With the aid of modest amplification, Dresser was able to exploit congenially ranges both above and below the tenor sax, and his angular melodic style gracefully complemented Laubrock’s. The trio played for 30 exciting minutes and added one short coda to close the concert. The Fresh Sound audience responded with lavish, appreciative applause for these sophisticated musicians.
This concert was presented on September 30, 2016, at Bread & Salt (1955 Julian Ave., San Diego) by Fresh Sound. The series’ next offering is another New York City group, Sandbox Percussion (Victor Caccese, Jonathon Allen, Terry Sweeney and Ian Rosenbaum), on October 19, 2016, in the same venue.