Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Polar Bear - 04/04/2004, Brussels

Ingrid Laubrock - ts
Pete Wareham - ts
Tom Herbert - b
Sebastian Rocheford - d

They're back! This time in Brussels at the Archiduc, late on a sunday afternoon.

The repertoire was similar to that of the first concert back in October, mainly covering songs from their debut album, Dim Lit. Ingrid Laubrock is a sub and hadn't played with the group since then, so there were a lot of flubs and missed cues, but the energy level was high and nearly all solos were very, very good.

Despite working essentially in the head-solos-head format, Sebastian Rocheford's writing and arrangement for the group is very fresh-sounding and intriguing, full of memorable contrapuntal melodies, tempo-shifting grooves and the odd bit of exotica. For example, on a Russian-flavoured tune, Rocheford began by clapping a rhythm, which he later turned into a slightly martial, dynamic drum pattern. Contrary to the driving groove to which a honking Wareham contributed, Laubrock played a rather languid and nostalgic melody. Russian-sounding, of course.

This band's most interesting feature is its interplay between the tenors and between the tenors and the rhythm section. While both Wareham and Laubrock seem to come out of similar modern jazz backgrounds which takes in everything from bebop to free jazz, with a little r'n'b and even free improv thrown in for good measure, they have arrived at quite different sounds and approaches. Laubrock is a bit fuller and warmer, but Wareham can be quite haunting at times, especially in his almost flute-like upper register. And of course, there's an omnipresent irresistable groove provided by Rocheford's idiosyncratic mix of jazz and contemporary London rhythms and Tom Herbert's melodic lines. They reached back in time for the concert's only new tune, "King of Aberdeen," when bass and drums established a fun, very fast, old-timey two-beat.

Rub Recordings label owner Gea told me that Dim Lit has just been released in the UK and apparently it's doing quite well over there. UK readers (if there are any), go get this album! They're aiming for a second album by the end of the year, which I'm very much looking forward to.

The next day, they played at the Hnita-Hoeve. Due to the combination of energy and imperfection, I would have loved to have gone, but alas I caused my first car accident in 6 years of driving on saturday and lost my front fender, so the car was (and still is, at the moment) undriveable... No injuries though.