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Rob Mazurek's Starlicker: Double Demon

Mark Corroto By

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It may seem like an anomaly to suggest that a jazz ensemble has to strip down to power up, but Starlicker does just that. Cornetist Rob Mazurek disassembled his Exploding Star Orchestra (which regularly has more than a dozen players) and Quintet into just a trio, with remaining players, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz and drummer John Herndon. Sans numbers and electronics, Starlicker packs a powerful unadorned punch.

Double Demon is as much about DIY indie-rock as it is about jazz. Mazurek recruited Herndon from the now-famous band Tortoise—an indie-rock band that's more about jazz and minimalism than rock—to supply a boost to the trio's sound. Herndon's playing is more Keith Moon than it is Paul Motian, as is the more percussive Adasiewicz—in his case, more Moon than Milt Jackson; his own trio CD, Sun Rooms (Delmark, 2010), a stellar showcase of the vibraphonist's composing and dynamic playing.

The first note hits like a steroid-fueled Barry Bonds,as the title track leaves no time for contemplation or soloing. Mazurek wrote these pieces to be dropped without traditional solos, and the trio winds through each piece as a troika, sharing the load. The music often gives the sense that the band is in constant battle—not among themselves, but with the intricacies of each piece. "Andromeda" is hurled forward, not just by Herndon's pulse, but by Adasiewicz's incessant tones and the sputtering charge of Mazurek's cornet. When the trio does ease back on "Triple Hex," the deliberative opening—with Adasiewicz creating simmering tones and Mazurek wandering a worldly Don Cherry path—ultimately gives way to the band's penchant for take-no-prisoners intensity.

The beauty here is that this is, in no way, free jazz. Every note played is in service of the composition, with the soloists adopting a breathtaking three-way approach.

Track Listing: Double Demon; Vodou Cinque; Orange Blossom; Andromeda; Triple Hex; Skull Cave.

Personnel: Rob Mazurek: cornet; Jason Adasiewicz: vibraphone; John Herndon: drums.

Title: Double Demon | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Delmark Records

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