For the Chicago Underground Trio, anything goes. On Flamethrower,
swinging jazz wanders in and out of an otherwise very free field. The opening track, for example, starts with a six-note bass groove. Jeff Parker steps in for a crisp, swinging guitar solo, then the ensemble gradually travels into free jazz territory. Punchy clusters replace clean lines, and the drumming moves into a pounding fourth gear. Just as soon as the noise started, it evolves back into the opening groove, and the band returns from their trip out.
With the addition of electronics, the group adds another level of complexity. Occasional grinding, pulsing, and chirping tones serve as an ever-evolving backdrop for instrumental improvisation. While the Trio (which on Flamethrower becomes a quartet with the addition of guitarist Parker) relies upon shock and surprise for much of their effect, they also entertain cohesion and subtlety for contrast.
The group appears just as much at home in sparse free improvisation as it is in composed unison lines over swinging rhythm. Cornet player Rob Mazurek can serve up a thick, warm melodic voice or a shrieking, warbling blowout depending on the situation.
This is not background music: it's serious stuff. Compositionally, the tunes on Flamethrower are demanding. Improvisationally, the element of unpredictability always rears its head when you least expect it. Flamethrower is creative work at the edge of the in & out continuummusic that requires the listener to pay attention and participate.
Personnel: Rob Mazurek: cornet, electronics; Chad Taylor: percussion; Noel Kupersmith: bass fiddle, electronics; Jeff Parker: guitar, electronics.