German saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and Canadian pianist Kris Davis met more than a decade ago as newcomers to the New York jazz world. They soon developed a trio, Paradoxical Frog, with drummer Tyshawn Sorey and have collaborated in various projects, including Laubrock’s Anti-House quintet and her orchestral Contemporary Chaos Practices. In recent years, each has achieved considerable prominence, recording frequently and topping international jazz critics polls. This state-of-the-art dialogue at chamber music dynamic levels demonstrates why.
Davis’ opening Snakes and Lattice introduces a partnership of virtuosos as they fly through a complex series of glissandi and tremolos, leaping registers and shifting tempos, all delivered with a kind of playful aplomb. There’s more of the same in Laubrock’s Whistlings, music in which dexterity is not an end but a gateway to new terrain, soprano saxophone and piano so close as to suggest a single musician.
Much of the music here is simply beautiful, but often in fresh ways. Laubrock produces sonorities of rare lustre, while Davis’ clouds of limpid notes blur Debussy and Second Viennese School. Their inventiveness and sense of detail are evident in Davis’ Flying Embers in which Laubrock’s quiet long tones and subtly shifting pitches fuse with the sustained hum of the piano strings. Laubrock’s Maroon moves toward form: initially balladic, it moves through a sustained free exchange, eventually arriving at two distinct voices, a lyric saxophone and an insistently percussive, mechanistic piano.