When three world-class musicians gather for a freely improvised encounter, the usual question isn’t whether they will excel individually; the real uncertainty is whether the whole will somehow exceed the sum of the individual parts.
When the magic of the finest free improvisation happens, it’s the collective nature of sound that ultimately should come to the fore, as the players generate musical power through their mutual interactions, receptive listening, and collaborative spirit of being willing to go wherever the music leads. When bassist Stephan Crump, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, and pianist Cory Smythe collaborate, that magic is absolutely present in astonishing ways.
Laubrock and Crump have a long-established track record of working with cutting-edge groups in a number of guises. Laubrock’s compositional strategy has become especially intriguing of late (note her recent path-breaking releases Ubatuba and Serpentines), but her chops as a free improviser are similarly well-developed, as she can seemingly work in any context. Her command of tenor, soprano, alto, and baritone saxophone is prodigious, and she has an uncanny knack for finding just the right technique to match the mood and direction of the piece she’s playing.
Crump is perhaps best known for his pivotal role in Vijay Iyer’s trio, where his rhythmic and stylistic fluidity are essential for Iyer’s genre-spanning fusion of jazz, classical and pop idioms. He’s also worked with Mary Halvorson (in Secret Keeper) and with Steve Lehman, among others.
Smythe, on the other hand, won’t be as familiar, as he travels first and foremost in classical circles, especially as part of the International Contemporary Ensemble. Even so, his recent work on Tyshawn Sorey’s Inner Spectrum of Variables and Nate Wooley’s Argonautica has garnered accolades and recognition of his willingness to seek compatriots from far and wide.
Listen to the music of the artists: