Andy Laster's Hydra


SGL 1507-2

“A recording demanding multiple listenings to catch every nuance. It sounds like some latter-day meeting of Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, and Charlie Mingus, all of them playing through a sonic, fun-house mirror.”

—Andrew Bartlett, 5/4 Magazine



Expanding from quartet to quintet for its first Songlines release, Hydra stomps and steals its way through Laster’s rhythmically complex, multi-layered and memorably quirky compositions. The addition of electric and Portuguese guitars to an already vivid line-up allows Andy and the band to explore a broad range of voicings and textures. Balancing fully-notated episodes against structured yet free-wheeling improvisational interplay, Hydra’s music touches many bases, from intricate counterpoint to carnivalesque cacophony. The spirit of Mingus, the hard boppers, Ornette, and the free jazz pioneers seems to rub shoulders with Ockeghem, Schubert, and the Jewish cantorial tradition in expressing an almost paradoxical sense of life’s suffering and music’s exultation, with the pulse and elan of the jazz tradition shining through.

Andy Laster also plays flute and clarinet, and co-leads New and Used, a New York collective  (Dave Douglas, Mark Feldman, Kermit Driscoll and Tom Rainey are the other members; CDs on Knitting Factory). As a leader he has three CDs on Sound Aspects: Hippo Stomp, Twirler, and Hydra. He is a member of Bobby Previte’s Weather Clear, Track Fast, and from 1988 to 1993 he toured with Lyle Lovett and his Large Band; he has also toured with Phil Haynes and Hank Roberts’ Birds of Prey, and performed with the Julius Hemphill Sextet, the New York Composers Orchestra, Orange Then Blue, Mike Formanek, Mark Helias and Myra Melford.

Herb Robertson performs with Tim Berne, Bobby Previte’s Empty Suits, Wayne Horvitz, Mark Helias, Ray Anderson, Bill Frisell, Paul Motian, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, Bob Stewart, and Simon Nabatov, among others. He can be heard on five JMT recordings under his own name, as well as on recordings by Berne, Helias, Previte, Redman, David Sanborn, Elliott Sharp, Anthony Davis, George Gruntz, and Barry Guy. The extended mute technique which he developed is a striking aspect of his playing.

Tom Rainey has drummed with John Abercrombie, Carmen McRae, Tim Berne, Joe Lovano, and the WDR Big Band. He plays and records in the Fred Hersch Trio, and has recorded with Kenny Werner, Mark Helias, Jane Ira Bloom, and Ray Anderson and the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band.

Drew Gress is a founding member of Joint Venture (three CDs on Enja), and can be heard with the Fred Hersch Trio and the Paul Smoker Trio, as well as leading his quartet Jagged Sky. He has performed and recorded with Ray Anderson, Ellery Eskelin, Marc Copland, Phil Haynes, Franklin Kiermyer, and is on Ben Monder’s Flux (Songlines).

Brad Shepik is co-leader of BABKAS (Songlines) as well as leading his own trio. He plays and records with Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, Dave Douglas’s Tiny Bell Trio (Songlines) and Matt Darriau’s Paradox Trio.


“If you like that angular, hoarse and soaring Brooklyn ensemble and style, check out Andy Laster’s Hydra…On trumpet is the mighty, nimble, nutty, undercelebrated Herb Robertson.” — Kevin Whitehead, Pulse

“A fine quintet…It challenges the idea that ‘hot and improvised’ rules out ‘cool and organized’: it’s as if a free group were playing Third Stream abstractions…Notes hand in the air with some of the strange logic that characterizes Company, but there is always a dependable harmonic frame. Recognizably jazz solos are twisted into limpid neo-classicism. Conscientious, high-quality chamber jazz — a rare commodity.” — Ben Watson, Hi-Fi News

“The buzz of discovery awaits the adventurous consumer: Polyogue is brimming with vigorously swinging blowing vehicles, extended pieces built on high-contrast materials and pungent pastiches.” — Bill Shoemaker, Jazz Times

“…an inspired blend…this quintet almost playfully navigates a course toward Third Stream…Hydra, Andy Laster’s cabinet of rarities and self-service shop in one, expands the adventure of music in the almost forgotten realm of controlled freedom.” — Joerg Konrad, Jazz Podium

“Cultivated, sophisticated music that follows the path of ‘polyphonic’ jazz…Harsh yet delicate…One is aware of a tension present but hidden, suggested and insinuated rather than explicated by red hot strokes.” — Beppe Montressor, L’Arena di Verona

“Laster constructs tight but airy structures meant to showcase both his considerable compositional skills and the group’s musicianship and improvising powers. For example, on the title track, Laster sets up tricky polyphonic structures but leaves room for a cooly compassioned duet between he and drummer Tom Rainey. Elsewhere, Laster sets up intriguing instrumental combinations, such as the polychromatic duets between he and Brad Schoeppach (on Portugese guitar), and wide-open soloing, such as Herb Robertson’s virtuosic trumpet solo, in which he soars and sputters in the aforementioned piece. This is a disc of fascinating, poly-layered structures and fresh poly-improvisational insight into those structures.” — Russ Summers, Option

modern/creative jazz/third stream
  1. Spool
  2. Chrysolite
  3. Fail Better
  4. Polyogue
  5. Vidua
  6. Puzzle
  7. The Commander
  8. Deep Sleep
  9. Moran, Jacques
  • Andy Laster, alto and baritone saxophone, compositions
  • Herb Robertson, trumpet, cornet
  • Brad Shepik, guitars
  • Drew Gress, bass
  • Tom Rainey, drums




  • Release Date
    September 11, 1995