Laura Misch, Sample the Sky Review
A Convergence of Electronic Ambience and Jazz Artistry
by Sylvannia Garutch
In this audacious venture, Sample the Sky emerges as a mosaic of musicality, meticulously assembled with every sound played, synthesized, or recorded from scratch—a testament to saxophonist, vocalist, and composer Laura Misch’s dedication to authenticity and sonic craftsmanship. This organic foundation is further enriched by the sinuous harmonies of Marysia Osu’s harp and the textural intricacies provided by Tomáš Kašpar’s guitar work, culminating in a tapestry woven with care and deliberation. The inclusion of these live elements, in conjunction with Misch’s compositional foresight, creates a record that is as much about the unity of its musicians as it is about the boundary-pushing vision of its leader.
From the outset, Misch demonstrates a keen ear for harmony. In tracks like “Hide To Seek,” she employs extended chords and rich, layered voicings that resonate with the intervallic constancy found in modal jazz. The way Misch crafts her harmonic progressions showcases a sophistication one might expect from a new age recording, but with inventive shades of modern jazz. She isn’t just playing changes; she’s creating soundscapes with pastel colors. The harmonic texture serves as a lush backdrop for her saxophone and vocal soliloquies, which themselves are performed with expressive nuance steeped in the language of electronica and forward-leaning jazz.
Jazz has always been about the interplay between melody and rhythm, and Sample the Sky uses this interplay masterfully. The rhythms found in “City Lungs” exhibit a hip-hop-influenced backbeat, reminiscent of jazz’s own historical penchant for borrowing from and contributing to other musical traditions. These beats aren’t just a foundation; they’re a dialogue with Misch’s vocal melodies, creating an intricate dance where the beat is as much a lead instrument as her voice and saxophone. Kašpar’s guitar adds a layer of rhythmic sophistication with his arpeggios and counterpoints.
Though not improvisational in the traditional jazz sense, there is an undeniable spirit of spontaneity that pervades Misch’s work. Her saxophone lines and layered vocal parts maintain an air of surprise and impulsiveness—a tribute to the genre’s emphasis on in-the-moment creation. In “Wild Swim,” Misch’s vocals weave in and out of the electronic fabric of the track, showcasing her ability to compose lines that feel immediate and unrehearsed. Osu’s harp adds a translucent aura that frames Misch’s layered vocals and supporting saxophone pads.
Misch’s vocal work throughout the album is an instrument in its own right. It’s not just about the lyrics, but the timbre, the phrasing, and how her voice can transition from a whisper to a cry, reminiscent of the great jazz vocalists who could imbue a single note with a narrative. Her use of vocal harmonies and overtones in “Listen to the Sky” engages with the jazz tradition inventively, her approach to vocal melodies and harmonies structured with the genre’s distinctive colors and intervals.
While purists might hesitate to classify Sample the Sky under the jazz umbrella, there is no denying Laura Misch’s engagement with the form. Her album bridges the worlds of electronic ambience and jazz complexity, a collage of sound that takes the best from both worlds. It is the kind of work that prompts us to consider the future of jazz and its capacity to assimilate and evolve.
In essence, Misch has created a new dialect within the jazz language, one that speaks to the genre’s undying spirit of reinvention. Sample the Sky is an album to be enjoyed, studied, and experienced with its revealing layers with each listen. The album symbolizes growth, encouraging us to look to the sky and see not the limit, but the expanse of jazz’s potential.