Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

15

Chicago / London Underground: A Night Walking Through Mirrors

Barry Witherden By

Sign in to view read count
Rob Mazurek is a remarkable musician, with a rare breadth and depth of expression. Off-hand, the only artist I can think of who possesses a similar emotional profile is Wadada Leo Smith. Like Smith, Mazurek can sear your ears and nerves one minute and soothe your soul the next, without any sense of strain or contrivance in the transition. This capacity was displayed in an especially emotional way with his 2014 release Return the Tides: Ascension Suite and Holy Ghost (Cuneiform) which he made with Black Cube SP. Dubbed "a modern spiritual," this was recorded in May 2013 following the loss of his mother, who had died just 11 days after being diagnosed with cancer. The juxtaposition of raw tenderness and angry catharsis was overwhelmingly moving.

I have commented elsewhere that his playing, "always deeply affecting and timbrally luminous, achieves the paradox of being simultaneously corporeal and ethereal." On this album, recorded live at London's enterprising Café Oto, the emphasis is on the visceral, but there are, nonetheless, passages where players and listeners can catch their breath somewhat, and plenty where the textures and complex interplay of the four musicians can be appreciated.

Mazurek and Chad Taylor have worked together as the Chicago Underground Duo for two decades, and when they invite guests in... which they only rarely do... they are picky. Mazurek says that guests must be "100% into the moment and what we're doing." For this gig they brought in Alexander Hawkins and John Edwards to help celebrate the Underground's 20th anniversary. It is not just national pride that leads me to say that the Brits entirely fill the bill. Edwards's agile bass lines, as ever, constitute a burnished tower of power, and Hawkins threads robust, tough melodic lines through some of the most turbulent ensembles. Taylor's driving, supple playing is, of course, quite at home.

Back in the heyday of free jazz/fire music its ferocious turbulence drew criticism along the lines that it was fueled by hate and anger. John Coltrane famously responded that the only person he was angry with was himself when he failed at something he was trying to do musically, but certainly many of his avant-garde colleagues were, understandably, fiercely opposed to many of the ills of society, racism not least amongst them. Mazurek insists "This is protest music. That's why it's called "Underground." It's not just called that for fun. We really believe in it. The world has become so homogenized and leans so far towards the right, and this music expresses complete freedom and lack of borders. Our music is all about the obliteration of any kind of oppression, the tearing down of any kind of wall— freedom and equality, both sonically and spiritually." For a change, that seems more than empty rhetoric: OK, it's political and social movements, not art, that really change societies, but this is music that feels like it could shake foundations. Scarily spooky one minute, scarily overwhelming the next, it'll then catch you by surprise with episodes of delicacy and reflection.

Track Listing: A Night Spent Walking Through Mirrors; Something Must Happen; Boss Redux; Mysteries of Emanating Light.

Personnel: Rob Mazurek: cornet, sampler, electronics, voice; Chad Taylor: drums, mbira and electronics; Alexander Hawkins: piano; John Edwards: double bass.

Title: A Night Walking Through Mirrors | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Alleviation CD/LP/Track Review Alleviation
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 18, 2017
Read Last Minute Panic CD/LP/Track Review Last Minute Panic
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 18, 2017
Read Murphy CD/LP/Track Review Murphy
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 18, 2017
Read Haberdashery CD/LP/Track Review Haberdashery
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 18, 2017
Read Song of the Silver Geese CD/LP/Track Review Song of the Silver Geese
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: December 18, 2017
Read Live at Kolarac CD/LP/Track Review Live at Kolarac
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: December 18, 2017
Read "Song of No Regrets" CD/LP/Track Review Song of No Regrets
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 16, 2017
Read "Kill Together" CD/LP/Track Review Kill Together
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 12, 2017
Read "Schlitten" CD/LP/Track Review Schlitten
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 24, 2017
Read "Kami Fusen" CD/LP/Track Review Kami Fusen
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 23, 2017
Read "Chasing the Unicorn" CD/LP/Track Review Chasing the Unicorn
by Paul Rauch
Published: September 6, 2017
Read "Avenida Graham" CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!