Of the many Rob Mazurek
led groups, his Chicago Underground collective has been the most prolific and adventurous cooperative with seven duo outings and another four trio releases. The quartet version of Chicago Underground, like the 1998 "Orchestra" formation, had issued only one album, the self-titled debut on the Thrill Jockey label in 2001. A one-off quartet project (Chicago/London Underground) A Night Walking Through Mirrors
(Cuneiform Records, 2017) featured Mazurek, drummer Chad Taylor
, British pianist Alexander Hawkins
, and bassist John Edwards.
Almost two decades later the "official" Chicago Underground quartet returns with Good Days
. Regular Mazurek colleagues, guitarist Jeff Parker
(Isotope 217 and Tortoise), and Taylor return from the original quartet. Bassist Noel Kupersmith is replaced here by multi-instrumentalist Josh Johnson who plays in Parker's New Breed group.
A ceaseless experimenter, Mazurek here leads the group in a very accessible and melodic outing as he did on his recent Desert Encrypts Vol. 1
(Astral Spirits, 2019). One of that album's compositions"Encrypts 37"is reimagined as "Unique Spiral," a pared-back, edgier take. "Good Days (For Lee Anne)" was written by Parker and first appeared on his trio album Bright Light in Winter
(Delmark, 2012). Stunning in its original form, Mazurek's trumpet adds another, ethereal element. Idiosyncratic pieces are intermingled in the set: Taylor's log drum solo "Lomé" and "All the Bells" highlighting contemplative bells, the jangling of objects, and Mazurek's slurred, crackled piccolo trumpet.
Mazurek, Taylor, and Parker have collectively worked on dozens of projects and their telepathy is long-established. Johnson is an excellent, if somewhat understated addition, and his piano work shines here. Parker's contributions to Good Days
can't be applauded enough; whether complex or simple, his playing is always meaningful. Chicago Underground releases are always welcome; this one is a superior example of what maturity and openness can net.
Orgasm; Strange Wing; Good Days (For Lee Anne); Batida; All The Bells; Unique Spiral; Lomé; Westview.
Josh Johnson: synth bass, organ, piano; Rob Mazurek: piccolo trumpet, electronics, bells.