Wig 33 reviews
PERCH HEN BROCK & RAIN
release February 27 2023
Perch Hen Brock & Rain is a free-improv super-group featuring two prolific couples the Dutch reeds master Ab Baars and violist Ig Henneman, and the German-American sax player Ingrid Laubrock and American drummer Tom Rainey, both couples are key members in the local Dutch scene and the New York Scene. This quartet was quartet gathered for a first extensive European tour in November 2014, which led to its first album, Live @ The Jazz Happening Tampere (Relative Pitch, 2016), and later the Dutch Summer JazzCycleTour in 2018. Elegiacal, the sophomore album of Perch Hen Brock & Rain, was recorded during that tour at Zaal 100 in Amsterdam. Baars also did the cover art.
These four idiosyncratic and highly experienced composers and improvisers are, obviously, conscious of their own weight and power and know how to weave a communal conversation comprised of silent and restrained elements with alternating, powerful and dense articulations. Elegiacal offers a collection of eight oddly enchanting improvisations as Tom Rainey calls them.
The quartet dynamics are balanced between imaginative timbral searches and engaging free music that refuses to subscribe to familiar genres or stylistic conventions. «Old West Blues» shows how Perch Hen Brock & Rain turns upside down a familiar blues form and plays with it in an immediate and intuitive conversation, but this piece is open to the most radical and subversive ideas. Baars and Laubrock engage in a poetic, playful talk in «Kites» and «Walking art», beautifully expanded by Henneman and gently ornamented by Rainey.
The following, shorter pieces highlight the always fascinating sonic imagination of these gifted improvisers, individually and as a collective, and the profound, spontaneous interplay that turns these improvised pieces into instant and brilliant compositions. The quartet develops its poetic ideas in a deep listening manner but with no attachment, trusting its wealth of experiences. This performance is concluded with the meditative-ritualist, most impressive title piece.
The Wire June 2023
Its easy to see how Ig Henneman, Ingrid Laubrock and Tom Rainey got the nicknames that make up this combos name, but what makes Ab Baars Perch? Is it his stance, or a favourite fish? Likewise, the second recording by this quartet, which is made up of two duos who are also couples, does not really live up to its name; its more inquisitive than mournful. Maybe red herrings are just how they roll. While theres plenty of nuanced interplay, sharply turned angles and intriguingly contrasting woodwind tonalities, its boat rocking moments like the slurred diction of Hennemans viola on Old West Blues and Tom Raineys periodic percussive koans that push this session beyond collegiality into collectively creative engagement.
Laubrock and Rainey both pop up again on Elegiacal, the second album with another musical couple, Dutch reedman Ab Baars and violist Ig Henneman. The 2018 studio date represents a meeting of two overlapping sensibilities, European free improv and post-downtown New York jazz, with healthy doses of contemporary classical, folk and other flavors thrown into the mix. Baars, on shakuhachi, clarinet and tenor saxophone, displays a strong independent streak, unsurprising from a mainstay of the ICP Orchestra and longtime colleague of iconoclasts such as drummer Han Bennink and pianist Misha Mengelberg, which means that whatever the instrument, his choices swerve the easy options. That's true for Henneman too, an avowed eraser of genre boundaries, as likely to scrape and tap as soar on the strings. Similarly intuitive in their interactions, Laubrock and Rainey contribute to shifting textures which can veer unexpectedly as the participants join or drop out. The results can be as varied as the gurgles and susurrations of "One Hundred Hall", the quixotic journey of "Old West Blues" from deconstructed viola and drums hoedown to Laubrock's rampaging tenor saxophone and finally Americana-tinged wistfulness, or the penultimate "Walking Art", where the twin tenors intertwine in first melodic then bristling communion.
The quartet Perch Hen Brock & Rain invites you to linger longer with their sophomore release Elegiacal. Their request is reflected in the music they make which has an imperturbable feel about it. Elegiacal, recorded in 2018, follows Live @ The Jazz Happening Tampere (Relative Pitch Records, 2016) from a quartet tour in 2014. This second outing was captured in a studio after their second tour.
Perch Hen Brock & Rain is tenor saxophonist Ab Baars who also doubles on clarinet and shakuhachi, his Dutch partner violist Ig Henneman, plus the New York couple of tenor and soprano saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and drummer Tom Rainey. Reflecting the success happy married partners possess, this ensemble has no leader, and this is discernible in the music. Being without a leader does not make the music rudderless. In fact, it creates a platform for more listening than talking by the musicians, which, by the way, is also an attribute of a successful marriage. Tracks such as "Kites," with stop/start explorations of sound, evidence the shared approach the quartet works within. Each player contributes, but moreover pauses continually for the others' contributios. It is as if each is holding a door open and inviting another to enter. The two reeds, Laubrock and Baars always complement and never clash, as do the colorists Rainey and Henneman.
"Walking Art" opens with scratchy viola and off-centere stick work by Rainey, followed by two saxophones exploring the fine edges of sound. Their one upper and one lower register approach builds with fuel from Rainey until both horns are indistinguishable. "Old West Blues" begins with an eerie folk-like viola played over Rainey's brushes before the energy of the quartet ramps up and saxophones are set free. The music returns, as it does throughout, to a quiet listening exercise by the players.
Abstract is ook het codewoord voor Elegiacal, maar dan van het bijzonder subtiele soort. Prachtig hoe de klanken van de blaasinstrumenten, van Laubrock en Baars, hier met elkaar worden verweven tot één veelkleurig patroon. Henneman en Rainey horen we samen in Old West Blues, waarin vooral de slepende patronen op altviool van Henneman opvallen. Verderop piept Baars er op tenorsax doorheen, direct herkenbaar aan zijn indringende stijl van spelen. Boeiend is ook die combinatie van klarinet en tenorsax in Kites. In Rain Perch & Brock krijgen de twee gezelschap van Rainey die met gerichte slagen piketpaaltjes slaat. Prachtig is ook het klankpalet in Dancing Steps, een hoge, zeer ijle klarinetklank van Baars, vermengd met pizzicato spel van Henneman. Walking Art klinkt al even ingetogen, maar nu horen we weer beide blazers. Het titelstuk Elegiacal met ruim twaalf minuten tevens het langste stuk, bewaarde het kwartet voor het laatst. Een bijzonder overtuigende en intieme klanksculptuur.