Tom Rainey Trio - Combobulated

Label: Intakt Records, 2019

Personnel - Ingrid Laubrock: tenor and soprano saxophones; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Tom Rainey: drums.


Tom Rainey constantly brings new ideas to the edgier side of jazz. On Combobulated, his fourth trio album as a leader, he is joined by the frequent and indispensable collaborators, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and guitarist Mary Halvorson. Together, these creative minds guarantee exciting improvised scenarios worked out with abundant complexity and enchantment.

The nearly 19-minute title track sounds awesome, starting off with the ebbs and flows of an odd drum pattern and two insouciant melodic paths that, even diverging in direction, sound perfectly consistent as a whole. As the tune moves forward, they densify the texture, heading toward a stunning crescendo that overflows in effects and timbres. An unorthodox guitar groove flares up in the middle of a solo sax passage, astounding the listener with its asymmetry and irreverence. When the intensity dies out, tingling guitar chops evolve gradually into an enigmatic blend of rock chords and electronic intrusions. This was just the preparation for a cosmic journey initiated by Rainey’s unforeseen tom-tom activity and hi-hat scintillation. The episode is further pressurized with psychedelic electronics and the fiery rumination of the saxophone. Hence, a safe landing is questionable after such a boisterous agitation. At the end, repeated saxophone multiphonics scream ‘help!’ or ‘we made it!’ - it’s really up to your imagination.

Point Reyes” is set in motion through Rainey’s delicate rudiments. In static mode, Laubrock and Halvorson embark in a sort of exotic folk dance that, feeling beautifully compact at times, ends in an indefinite state of liquidity.

A great sonic menu is offered during “Fact”. Playful interactions between sax and guitar are served as an appetizer, and then the main course: capricious drum forays with sparse bursts of distorted guitar and digital effects that go like clockwork. Brisk and coiled saxophone lines, heavy chords that tend to become patterned, and a jittery rhythm, are the main ingredients of the bittersweet dessert: a perfectly danceable prog-rock assembly. The driving propulsion, inspired and dazzling, leads to the easy conclusion that a bass player is not required in this specific context.

If the aerial suspensions of “Isn’t Mine” are temporarily disrupted by the presence of a restless soprano saxophone on top of an acerbic indie-rock progression, “Torn Road” is immersed in atmospheric clouds of mystery. Slide guitar laments join both the percussive tick-tocks and the circular saxophone blows before hitting a heavily bumpy road, whose navigation is solely entrusted to master Rainey.

Splays Itself” is a showcase for Laubrock’s extended techniques, kinetic phrasing, and saturated timbral coloration. The inclusion of rock-imbued strokes on guitar and maniacal drum attacks emit jarring undercurrents that aggravate the urban feel of this landscape.

The trio boasts immense energy and originality, and their musical qualities are sonically enhanced by David Torn's spectacular mixing, mastering and post-production. In this particular chapter of their careers, you will find them at a peak of their musical strength.

Grade  A

Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Combobulated ► 03 - Fact ► 05 - Splays Itself

Tom Rainey's Obbligato - Float Upstream

Label/Year: Intakt Records, 2017

Lineup – Ingrid Laubrock: tenor and soprano saxophone; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Kris Davis: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Tom Rainey: drums.


Multifaceted American drummer Tom Rainey reunited his all-star band Obbligato for their second outing, Float Upstream, following the same philosophy of picking out classic tunes from the Great American Songbook and transforming them according to a modern point of view. 

The quintet, both responsive and malleable, features Ingrid Laubrock on saxophones, Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Kris Davis on piano, and Drew Gress on bass, each of them staggering improvisers and distinguished bandleaders.

The music passes a feeling of delight, showing the respect and admiration these adventurous musicians have for the repertoire, even if they’re mostly known for different voyages, certainly less accessible yet widely exciting. However, fans of their probing style can relax because the fearless, risky attitude and proneness for experimentation are all here, well adapted to the softer nature of the pieces, whose new aesthetics blooms under a loose-jointed predisposition.

Stella by Starlight” gives the example, opening the recording with a breezy Motian-esque flow hinged to the natural swinging environment. The melodic conversation between Alessi and Laubrock finds Davis as a meddler, each of them contributing to the balanced hybridity of tradition and modernity.

Soaring like a feather in the wind, Sam Rivers’ “Beatrice” is subjected to a cultivated sonic treatment. The balladic journey starts with sophisticated trumpet lines over sparse piano textures. After interlocking bass lines and distinctive brushwork get aligned to build a solid ground, Laubrock’s saxophone pops up, weaving melodies in and out, as the gentle yet propelling swinging inflection takes over.

An intrepid avant-jazz invasion takes hold of the uptempo “What is This Thing Called Love”, which features thoughtful horn interplay and a jagged piano exhilaration cooked up with intelligence. Here, the tune’s melodic statement can be glimpsed during the last seconds, but on “What’s New” it's perfectly recognizable from the beginning on account of Davis, who never abandons the main melody completely, exploring around it. Before she appears, one may indulge in Gress' solo bass intro populated with gorgeous woody phrases, elastic slides, and brief quick trills. The saxophonist, less expansive than usual and working alongside Alessi, still tosses a few elliptical punches to keep things interesting, wrapping up the piece with melodic clarity.

Brandishing his unique sound and advanced rhythmic discernment, Rainey opens a surprisingly waltzing “There Is No Greater Love” with both wet and wry tonalities allied to other inventive percussive techniques. Expect nice call-responses throughout a soprano/trumpet improvisation.

Before closing the session with another well-known ballad, “I Fall in Love Too Easily”, there’s time for the uncompromising title track, the only piece composed by the quintet, which swinging straight, also explores boundlessly.

Only talented musicians create edgy perspectives from traditional forms and structures. Rainey’s Obbligato does it charmingly with a selfless commitment.

       Grade  B+

       Grade B+

Favorite Tracks: 
02 - Beatrice ► 03 – What is This Thing Called Love ► 04 - What’s New

Jazz Albums 2016 - Weekly Listening Jul 4-10

Another 6 fresh Jazz records to enjoy!


Ingrid Laubrock: tenor and soprano saxophones; Tom Rainey: drums. 

Two Brooklyn-based innate adventurers and partners, both in music and life, Ingrid Laubrock and Tom Rainey are really impressive in the way they dominate their instruments and express themselves. 
By sounding so tight and natural, “Buoyancy”, let the couple’s perfect communication flow both in its fast and furious vindications or hushed sensitivities. It’s their new excavation of rhythms and sounds.
If you’re familiar with their work, you’re probably imagining that rhythm might take over melody throughout the four pieces presented here. Well, this is partly true, if we take into account that this genre lives mostly from the gradual rhythmic alternations, motivic ideas, and interchanges. Still, sweet melodic murmurs and lulls can be assimilated. 
“Buoyancy” is a special record, not only for its creators, but also for those who look for intensity, agility, and creativity in the expansive world of modern jazz.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Buoyancy  02 – Twenty Lanes  03 – The Museum Of Human Achievement


Lionel Loueke: guitar, vocals; Jason Lindner: piano, keyboards; Omer Avital: bass, oud; Daniel Freedman: drums; Gilmar Gomes: percussion.

The flexible New York drummer Daniel Freedman convenes a super multicultural band to play in “Imagine That”, a penetrating record that crosses the boundaries of jazz and world fusion. 
The Brazilian Gilmar Gomes, a member of Forro in the Dark, joins Freedman for the first time, in opposition to the Israeli-American bassist Omer Avital, the American pianist Jason Lindner, and the fantastic and influential Benin-born guitarist Lionel Loueke, who are longtime collaborators. 
The leader, who incorporated two compositions of Lindner, one of Loueke, and a remarkable interpretation of Radiohead’s “Codex”, boasts his West African and Middle Eastern influences with four dulcet pieces of his own authorship. Three of them were enveloped in cheerful demeanors and the remaining one was delivered with elegiac undertones.
The sum of the parts makes a solid whole, and the noteworthy “Imagine That” sparks as a universal festivity.

Favorite Tracks:
02 – Baby Aya 04 – Codex 05 – Mindaho


Chris Speed: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Red Wierenga: accordion, piano; Matt Moran: vibraphone; Drew Gress: acoustic bass; John Hollenbeck: drums.

Minimally composed and meticulously conceived, the music of The Claudia Quintet, led by the drummer/composer/arranger John Hollenbeck, is always difficult to categorize.
I describe it as a sort of cerebral jazz that merges with fragments of modern classic and folk music, and then is delivered in the form of ethereal, unobstructed, and hypnotic dances.
The tunes are more programmed than improvised, only occasionally opening space to Chris Speed’s non-aggressive saxophone/clarinet, which sound soars over the moods created by Moran’s vibes, Wierenga’s accordion, and the rhythm section. “JFK Beagle” and “Philly” are the tracks that better illustrate this exception.
Hollenbeck’s phenomenal percussive timbres match Gress’ subtle bass work in an irreproachable way. A generalized relentless symbiosis is created, emphasizing the whole rather than the individual.

Favorite Tracks:
02 – JFK Beagle 04 – Philly 10 – Mangold


Sara Serpa: vocals, piano, Fender Rhodes; Andre Matos: guitar, electric bass, percussion; Pete Rende: synthesizer; Billy Mintz: drums, percussion.

Dreamy and atmospheric, “All the Dreams” soars higher with every listening. 
Its airy, often sedative effect comes from the compelling melodies sang by Ms. Serpa, who spreads a sweet languor over the well-crafted textures delineated by her husband, the guitarist Andre Matos. The Portuguese duo, besides playing other instruments that aren’t normally associated with them, counted on the subtle-yet-determined synthesizer of Pete Rende and the percussive skills of the veteran Billy Mintz, in order to materialize their compositions.
Tinged with several influences - from pop to jazz to Middle Eastern music - and featuring the poetry of William Blake, Luis Amaro, and Alvaro de Campos, these tunes sound authentic, taking us to the very particular musical universe of Serpa/Matos. 
Get yourself ready to experience minimalism, complexity, and sophistication throughout this eclectic fusion.

Favorite Tracks:
02 – A La Montagne 03 – Estado de Graça 06 – Água


Brian Groder: trumpet, flugelhorn; Michael Bisio: bass; Jay Rosen: drums.

Brian Groder’s “R Train on the D Line” is an excellent follow-up to “Reflexology”, which was recorded with exactly the same partners in 2014.
The leader’s talking trumpet/flugelhorn evinces melodic consistency and a disarming eloquence regardless the pace and mood of the tunes. Groder's phrasing slides freely and whimsically over the non-static rhythmic masses created by the dauntless bassist Michael Bisio, a distinctive skipper in the pizzicato and bowing approaches, and the off-kilter drummer Jay Rosen. 
Attentive listeners will notice transitory swinging sections being intercalated with the more exploratory ones, an option that avoids steady routines by suggesting a different trajectory.
The super balanced trio approaches Groder’s crisp compositions with discipline, maneuvering the sounds and rhythms with perception, purpose, and accuracy. Multiple listenings will bring new discoveries.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Quanta 02 – Retooled Logic 05 – Praxis


Lefteris Kordis: piano; Petros Kamplanis: double bass; Ziv Ravitz: drums; 

Greek pianist Lefteris Kordis takes us on a nice cruise, sailing on accessible waters that are shared by jazz and Eastern Mediterranean folk territories.
We can have a better notion of Korda’s beautiful lyricism in the tunes he plays in trio, with the double bassist Petros Kamplanis and the drummer Ziv Ravitz. Sometimes their sound reminisces Steve Kuhn’s textural compositions.
However, it’s not uncommon to hear exotic scales and allusions to flamenco played on top of the more traditional folk songs. This is achieved with the juxtaposition of some other elements such as a restless ney flute, a melodious harmonica, a moving accordion, a crying clarinet, or the medieval touch of a lute. To join these assorted combinations, Mr. Korda seamlessly jazzified “And I Love Her” by The Beatles, giving it a personal touch.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – In the Land of the Phrygians 02 – Yota 05 – The Raven and the Fox