Two years ago, I gave a five-star rating to pianist Kris Davis' "Rye Eclipse", a stunning album with great musical vision. Last year, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock's "Sleepthief" was almost as good, and with equal strong musical vision, even stronger when I saw her perform with Tom Rainey and Liam Noble. Tom Rainey is without a doubt one of the best drummers of the moment, and features on many albums reviewed on this blog. So, having these musicians release in various line-ups is a pleasure for the avant-garde jazz fan.
Tom Rainey Trio - Pool School (Clean Feed, 2010) ****
A couple of weeks after "Swedish Azz", here is another diving woman on the cover of an adventurous album. A symbol of not being afraid to jump in the deep, not afraid of cold water? A symbol of style, practice, discipline and grace? A symbol of creating ripples on the as yet untouched surface? A metaphor of daring to take a deep dive below the surface of things?
In my humble opinion, it signifies all of them. Rainey has swum in many waters, and still does. Laubrock has evolved from mainstream and even Latin towards complete free form, with a strong emotional voice and musical vision. And Mary Halvorson on electric guitar is an acquired taste, raw and unpredictable, sometimes hesitant yet rarely less than adventurous, yes, raw and fragile is possibly the best description of her paradoxical attitude to the instrument.
On this album, the trio explores an open-ended musical universe in twelve improvisations each clocking around five minutes long. Each piece has its own character of intimate or energetic trialogue, built around each other's inventions and spur of the moment ideas, yet sufficiently focused around some central concepts to have a sense of unity. Most pieces are quite abstract, even if Laubrock uses a rare melodic phrase once in a while, as on "Crinkles", or sudden rhythmic developments that disappear as fast as they came, otherwise you get bouncing sounds, nervous reactions, sonic build-ups, often with a harsh delivery that is the result of both dissatisfaction with the present as with joy in creating something new. Creative destruction if you want. Forget about long phrases or stretched sounds, it is all about pointillistic dots, as if the guitar and the sax have turned into percussion instruments, splashing notes on the canvas.