Paradoxical Frog The trio between saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, pianist Kris Davis and drummer Tyshawn Sorey was one of those very rare bands that can make you re-evaluate what music is and where it can go. Paradoxical Frog was both tamed and feral, both thoroughly composed and improvised, both microscopic and larger than life. The trio started off with one note, shared between Davis, Laubrock and Sorey on melodica, moving slowly and deliberately stirring up occasional intrigue with secondary notes. The trio moved into melodic territory in sympathetic vibration, Laubrock’s vocal sputters and little cells of melodies reacting with Davis’s low register and Sorey’s reverberating cymbal tones. The beginning part of the set was a commentary on space and sound; everything from the upper register of Davis’s piano, the whispers of Laubrock’s tenor and the startling melodic nature of Sorey’s cymbal creaks echoed and swirled in tandem. When it finally made it’s way to more aggressive territory, it was a whole different story. Laubrock’s warlike screeches soared above Davis’s thunderous plunks while Sorey exploded with lightning fast toms and rim-tapping paradiddles in an obscured meter. The band’s frighteningly original sound concept was nearly impossible to pin down, but most likely came from the diverse approaches the band holds and given the democratic nature of the trio, all the combined influences are shared by each trio member. The group’s sense of classical invention most likely came through the classically trained Davis. She encompassed each new section with the parental support of her low notes and left-right hand volleys, however Laubrock also played many laconic and searching melodies. Laubrock most likely engendered the presence of free and aggressive avant-garde jazz, but all members of the trio indulged Davis’s kinetic, spidery lines and Sorey’s rumbles, contributing to the forward charge. Sorey, in all probability, contributed more than a few attributes to the trio, such as a meditative story-like minimalism, indeterminacy and rhythmic ambiguity. Sorey’s enthusiasm for the works of thinkers like John Cage seemed to bring about the band’s quiet, natural atmosphere, tossing cymbals and sticks and letting them fall where they may. His rhythmic concept was his way of creating melodies on a secondary plane of existence, each implied meter or rhythmic mode a melody in and of itself. However, no amount of analysis can perfectly summate the mystery and wonder the trio was able to accomplish. When Laubrock used her mouthpiece to gurgle into a cup of water, it seemed amusing at first, until the compositional atmosphere took hold with Sorey accompanying the sounds using wood flute and blowing through a cymbal hole, captivating the audience with sonic capability. There’s no amount of listening that could have determined just how the band inserted grooving, complex modern jazz within the context of quiet pensiveness. There’s no way of truly knowing how Davis sews together the trio’s compositions with a patient composure or how Laubrock mediates melodicism and wolf-like aggression or how Sorey restlessly invents new colors. In the end, the band’s name is appropriate, a quandary that endlessly fascinates.

Daniel Lehner