Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tom Rainey & Ingrid Laubrock Hit Pittsburgh

Last Thursday, Tom Rainey and Ingrid Laubrock played at the Thunderbird Cafe. Tom has been a drummer around New York for years, playing with Mark Helias, Drew Gress and Tim Berne. Ingrid hails from Germany but has been living in the states for a few years, playing with Mary Halvorson in addition to leading her own groups. They're also husband and wife.

Although Tom just released an album called Obbligato which reexamines some jazz standards, the duo also put out an album called ...and other desert towns, 10 tracks of complete improvisation. At the Thunderbird that was their approach too. Attribute it to the end of the tour tightness (they were heading back home after this tour) or a generally strong rapport between the two of them, but the music was propulsive and engaging.

Rainey didn't look at his drums while he was playing, or if he did, his eyes looked down as he faced forward. At first he was sticking to ideas on the rack and floor toms. He frequently shifted from brushes to sticks and back without taking a break in the sound. At one point, he only used one brush, while his other bare hand served as a good way to get accents off the heads. There was also a moment where he got a low rumble off the floor tom with his hand. 

Laubrock can get wild and noisy if she likes, but in the beginning of the set, she was playing a series of short phrases that strung together as a full, extended thought. When she switched to soprano, she delivered a moody sound that could have passed for a written-out idea. During the second of the extended "pieces" that they played, she started to growl a little more, getting a fluttering sound by playing with the side keys of the tenor. Rainey responded by getting a whole back of sticks and placing them on the floor tom and whacking them for accents. 

Their whole set lasted about 45 minutes. A little more would have been cool, but it was still a good length for the set. Many times when there's an avant jazz show at the Thunderbird, there audience numbers somewhere around the teens. While it wasn't jam packed during Rainey & Laubrock's set, there was a throng of people standing up front and paying attention. Part of that could be attributed to the headliner, Cory Henry of Snarky Puppy who played next. But either way, the duo got a warm welcome. Henry's audience did pack the area in front of the stage for an electric, groovy set that added some tricky time turnarounds. I stuck around for a little of that, but the next day was a long, rigorous so I bowed out.

Go hear to read a quick Q&A that I had with Rainey prior to the show.

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