Audeze interviews saxophonist and composer Ingrid Laubrock
June 26, 2020
Ingrid Laubrock is a German saxophonist/composer who has been based in Brooklyn NY since 2009. Laubrock is interested in exploring the borders between musical realms and creates multi-layered, dense and often evocative sound worlds. She has collaborated with many of today's most innovative jazz luminaries, such as Tom Rainey, Mary Halvorson, Craig Taborn, Tyshawn Sorey, Kris Davis, Aki Takase and many others. Ingrid is also associated with production maven David Breskin, who was featured recently in the Audeze Artist blog.
How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on?
Composer, saxophonist, musical director and producer.
Do you have a favorite instrument or two that inspire you in your playing?
I’d say my first love has to be the tenor saxophone, but I do have periods where I concentrate on the soprano saxophone more - like the last three weeks for example.
My favorite horns are vintage Selmer. My tenor is a Super Balanced Action and my alto and one of my sopranos are MK VI.
The only non-vintage sax I have is a Yanagisawa Soprano, but even there I had a neck made to personal dimensions to get a more individual tone. The neck maker is called Stefan Bösken.
How did you get started in your area of music?
I fell into it by doing it…30 years ago! I grew up in a tiny village but was lucky that my parents were very much into classical music. My dad played piano and both of my parents sang in choirs. I started having music lessons age 4 and learned piano from age 8, sang in church choirs and played the recorder in a quartet. That was pretty much what was available in a small rural place. The saxophone came later, after I moved to London aged 18. I spent 20 years in London ‘figuring it out’ before moving to Brooklyn in 2009 to join my (now) husband.
Can you explain the genesis of your recent "Stir Crazy" sessions with Tom Rainey? How did those come about, and how do you typically capture and edit them?
Both my husband Tom and I had all of our work cancelled for the remainder of this year - that included a tour with my quartet, a performance of one of my orchestra works by the BBC Glasgow Chamber Orchestra and many others I was excited about.
That, coupled with having elderly parents and relatives in Europe I was worried about, caused lot of uncertainty and anxiety. We were also in touch with fans who usually live for live performances and who come to almost everything we do and wanted to find a way to stay in touch with them and show them we care. We also wanted to have something that documents this extraordinary period and gives us a sense of stability and something to work on. In normal times, Tom and I play together a lot and now especially, we consider ourselves lucky to have another musician to play with. We often ask friends to send us compositions that we adapt for this duo setting and working on their compositions has been a little like having them with us in the room.
Our recording equipment is really limited - all I have is a Zoom H4n with its internal stereo mics. We go for full takes, warts ’n all, which I then edit together into a weekly episode in Logic. There is not much in the way of post-production - I add a little reverb and that’s it and the result is raw, but honest. Because of the lack of audio quality, we put them up on Bandcamp for free. A lot of people donate anyway and we give at least 50% of those to charities, alternating between US based and international ones and sometimes musicians we know who struggle.
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire to get where you are in their own careers?
Work hard, accept that you have to do a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with music to make it happen, don’t let anyone influence you TOO much and don’t give up!
How long have you been working with headphones, and what inspired you to start including them in your workflow?
I ... did track the record I am currently working on with David Breskin’s EL-8s. That felt amazing as the sound is so much more real than most studio headphones and I felt less disconnected from my instrument than I often do when recording with headphones. As a saxophone player it is never great to not hear the source of the sound coming out of the instrument. The Audeze headphones were the most realistic sounding I have ever tried in the studio.
Tom and I did a live online concert with a bassist who was in a different place and I used the LCD-XC - it sounded great and was not that different than playing in a recording studio. Much better than my previous experiences with that sort of thing.
What strikes me about the LCD-XC, used in a remote real time orchestra mixing session with Ron Saint Germain and David Breskin, is the incredible spatial awareness I had while listening. We were mixing a small chamber orchestra with the addition of saxophone, piano, bass, drums and electronics and I could literally “see” the musicians and where they were sitting in the room in front of my inner eye. The dynamic response is also phenomenal, every small sound is crystal clear and nothing felt cluttered, even in very dense music. (The album is called Dreamt Twice, Twice Dreamt and will be out on Intakt Records in November 2020.)
Here's a photo of Ron, Ingrid and David from the remote session mentioned above:
And lastly, here's a great video from the Contemporary Chaos Practices sessions, where you can see glimpses of Ingrid, Kris, Mary, Ron and David (among lots of others):