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Ingrid Laubrock: Contemporary Chaos Practices (Intakt) / Ingrid Laubrock and Tom Rainey: Utter (Relative Pitch)

Review of two albums by the saxophonist and composer—one orchestral, the other a duo set

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Cover of Ingrid Laubrock album Contemporary Chaos Practices
Cover of Ingrid Laubrock album Contemporary Chaos Practices

As a bandleader, the wildly inventive soprano and tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock shepherds all-star groups such as Ubatuba, Anti-House, and Serpentines, all category-defying projects with a bent toward unconventional instrumentation and disparate style-shifting. The Germany-born, Brooklyn-based polymath’s collaborative and side work, meanwhile, includes a regular slot in the acclaimed Mary Halvorson Octet, plus stints in Paradoxical Frog and Kris Davis’ Capricorn Climber. Add a pair of new recordings, traversing polar-opposite sound worlds, to her ballooning canon.

Contemporary Chaos Practices is Laubrock’s fifth album in six years for the Zurich-based Intakt imprint. It’s also her first foray into truly large-scale composition—the sprawling program features Laubrock, guitarist Halvorson, pianist Davis, and trumpeter Nate Wooley alongside a 35-piece orchestra plus eight vocalists—and she proves a natural virtuoso in both writing for and playing in the classical-contemporary framework. This is music of majestic breadth, swirling intricacy, and rich detail. With Eric Wubbels and Taylor Ho Bynum at the helm as conductors, thrilling phrases give way to serpentine patterns and bold abstractions running the loud/quiet gamut. Halvorson’s warped twang is Instantly recognizable on the 16-minute “Contemporary Chaos Practices Part 1 & Part 2,” while the 18-minute “Vogelfrei,” featuring Josh Sinton on amplified contrabass clarinet, keeps listeners on the edge of their seats through a sometimes hypnotic, sometimes explosive forward-motion journey heavy on transcendent dronescapes and angelic voices.

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