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Paradoxical Frog Union Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

This young improv trio from NYC is making all the right moves, and some.

Martin Longley 2012

Just about the only negative observation to be made regarding this album is that its makers’ chosen name suggests that they might be a progressive rock band from darkest 1973. The reality is far removed from that premise.

This young, improvising jazz trio, dwelling in New York City, are at the beginning of their playing relationship. Readers may be familiar with German saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, who was London-based until a move to Brooklyn. There, she teamed up with pianist Kris Davis and drummer Tyshawn Sorey, both bandleaders themselves.

The concept behind this trio is one of complete equality. Sometimes the trio can perform in a completely improvising frame of mind, but this recording inserts a significant ratio of composed themes, naturally infused with more spontaneous diversions. Each member contributes their own pieces.

The album moves through a wide spread of moods, speeds and densities. An Intermittent Procession, with a relatively direct deployment of their instruments, opens in a chamber jazz frame. Once those two minutes are dispatched, the trio move towards First Strike, a sequence of extended drones, Laubrock suspending long tenor saxophone notes.

Sorey scrapes a drumstick, held upright on his snare drum. Then he’s caressing gongs. And that’s where much of the intrigue lies when listening to this session: attempting to guess how some of the more mysterious sounds were created.

The playing almost gets funky with Fear the Fairy Dust, Laubrock moving from a Coleman Hawkins breathiness to something akin to the sound of Anthony Braxton. There’s a John Cage vocabulary at work here, too. A brooding build-up leads to piano thunder, twisting into a composed theme.

A plinked trebly piano key repeats on the title cut, Laubrock coaxing animalistic clucks and barks, and Sorey busies himself dismantling his metal array. He solos whilst the others mark monotone time; then the drummer picks up a stray trombone.

The oleaginous procession of Repose features more extended tones from Laubrock, as Sorey brandishes a melodica. The implacable development has the air of a Morton Feldman composition, leading into the deliberately repetitive closer, which suggests the flamboyant strut of a Steve Lacy tune.

All spheres are open to the Frog.

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