The first half of the decade has seen cornet virtuoso and composer Rob Mazurek through significant achievements and personal losses, often linked inextricably through his creative processes. In and around the passing of his mentor and colleague, the trumpeter Bill Dixon
in 2010 and his mother in 2013, Mazurek has found inspirations that are unique even for an innovator of his caliber. The latter life event was the impetus for two very different collectionsMother Ode
(Corbett vs Dempsey, 2014)a solo, multi-instrumental tribute and the more electrified Return the Tides: Ascension Suite and Holy Ghost
(Cuneiform, 2014). It was Dixon, however, who was an inspiration for the distinctive Alternate Moon Cycles
Mazurek and Dixon worked closely in achieving a deeper understanding of the pure tone of the trumpet (or cornet, in Mazurek's case). Mazurek later conceived a performance piece"100 Cs for Dixon"as a tribute to the trumpeter and that work foreshadowed Alternate Moon Cycles
. Based on the amplified and uninterrupted playing of the C note on cornet, it bears conceptual similarity to Nate Wooley
's The Almond
(Pogus, 2011). Wooley's piece is a solo modulation of pitch while Mazurek engages electric bassist Matthew Lux
and Mikel Patrick Avery
on organ. Lux is a long-time collaborator with Mazurek dating back to Isotope 217's The Unstable Molecule
(Thrill Jockey, 1997}}. The two have continued to work together in the Exploding Star Orchestra
, Pulsar Quartet and the recent Pharoah & the Underground: Spiral Mercury
(Clean Feed Records, 2014).
A regular fixture in Chicago area arts, Avery is a percussionist/composer by trade. He frequently incorporates non-traditional means of generating percussive effects making him a naturally kindred spirit to Mazurek. Avery also shares Mazurek's broader interest in the creative disciplines that reach beyond traditional musical confines. On Alternate Moon Cycles
, Avery steps away from the drum kit, utilizing the pump organ's suitability in generating subtle tonal effects.
The album consists of two long pieces that could be described as dark ambient; a similar but more minimal approach to the style employed by Bohren & der Club of Gore on Piano Nights
(Ipecac Recordings, 2014). Mazurek's muted D note is countered by Lux and Avery's humming C on "Waxing Crescent No. 1" and the effect is a unique blend of lyricism and drone. Similarly, "Waxing Crescent #2" applies just enough layering to expose subtle levels within the composition without losing focus on the core idea behind Mazurek's tonal experiment. He masterfully manages a process of imparting order in the midst of oppositional forces, allowing both aspects to coexist.
With global art installations and exhibitions, commissioned musical works and residencies throughout the US and Europe, Rob Mazurek is an artist in every sense of the word. He describes his own creative process as one where the unseen and unheard aspects of art are meant to be filled in by cognitive processes. The many group formations that he works with allow him to innovate freely through a multiplicity of musical relationships that best suit his vision. Mazurek takes a syllabus-free approach to manipulating the structure of understanding through which we make sense of the music. The result of this creative freedom is that Alternate Moon Cycles
seems to grow in depth with each listen and is at once challenging and accessible and one of Mazurek's finest outings.