Hydra was formed in the mid 1990s and is one of Laster's key ongoing projects. Characteristics of Laster's writing for Hydra are multisectional pieces that feature highly contrapuntal textures layered over complex rhythmic frameworks. The first eponymously named CD by Hydra was released in 1994 on the Sound Aspects label; in 1995 Songlines released Polyogue; the third CD Soft Shell, followed three years later.

Hydra features Tom Rainey – drums, Drew Gress – bass, Herb Robertson – trumpet, cornet, and Laster on alto and baritone saxophone. 

"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... High-quality chamber jazz — a rare commodity."

—Ben Watson, Hi-Fi News

"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

"This is the album where all of Hydra's established signatures are laid out in bold italics. Laster continues to refine his compositional voice for this band, particularly on such seamlessly constructed multi-sectioned compositions like the title piece, where he melds a sardonic 'Fables Of Faubus'-like motif with supple contrapuntal lines and a brisk double-time section…. Laster's unforced sense of line pays off repeatedly, especially on tunes that overtly tap a genre like the boppish "Tentacles" and the funky "South Shore Reform Experience, Part II."
—Bill Shoemaker, Jazz Review