Tenor/soprano saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock has released two previous albums with her Anti-House group, but her players have all crossed paths in other bands as well. Laubrock plays in guitarist Mary Halvorson’s septet with bassist John Hébert. Drummer Tom Rainey and Laubrock play as a duo and, with pianist Kris Davis, in Rainey’s quintet Obbligato. Laubrock and Davis are also two-thirds of Paradoxical Frog.
In this case familiarity breeds rapport, which brings out qualities not normally expected from each musician. Most significant, Halvorson plays without the use of her pitch-bending effect pedal, typically a trademarked element of her musical voice. Without it, she still unleashes convoluted melody lines, but she also produces some manic country-fied chords, especially during her entrance on the opening “That’s All She Wrote,” following some equally free clatter from Rainey.
Dynamics ebb and flow from track to track and often within a single piece. Group improvisation sits on equal footing with composition. Many of the pieces find the players working in pairs and trios, one entering gently while others provide background color. While Laubrock calls the shots, her bandmates often get more spotlight time than she does. However, on the penultimate track, “From Farm Girl to Fabulous, Vol II,” she cuts loose, blasting staccato figures against the rhythm section, climaxing with Ayler-esque wails and delicious overtones. One part modern chamber music, one part radical jazz, Roulette of the Cradle is action-packed even during its quietest moments.