277

Chicago Underground Duo: In Praise of Shadows

By

Sign in to view read count
Chicago Underground Duo: In Praise of Shadows In Praise of Shadows, the fourth release by the Chicago Underground Duo, focuses on continuing experiments in sense confusion within a single relationship: music and light. As with previous albums, cornetist Rob Mazurek and drummer Chad Taylor spend considerable time on piano and vibes respectively, creating a surprisingly full sound that is matched by a wide stylistic palette, from free bop to minimalism, in settings both austere and exotic.

Their interest in the visual power of music, most obvious in the name of their second album, Synesthesia, returns to the forefront here. Though this is the first CUD recording that does not mention color in any track title, Shadows explores a narrower subject—musical light and dark—from start to end.

This programmatic thread might be overstated if it didn't connect the pieces so well. The bright opener, "Falling Awake, lit by Taylor's simultaneous stroll on vibes and swelling of cymbals, creates an effect of complete darkness when the next section, "In Praise of Darkness, begins. How does night sound to the CUD? Stark and suggestive. Taylor's meter-less drum rolls describe scurrying just out of sight as Mazurek feels his way through a sparse set of dissonant chords on the piano. Muted melodies from the cornet calm the atmosphere before returning to night's uncertainty with sputtering runs as unpredictable as a loosed balloon.

"The Glass House, Taylor's overdubbed mbira and vibes duet, pours out ringing tones whose subtle rhythmic ripplings suggest the play of light on water more than on glass. But the title may also serve as an answer to critics of the duo's experiments in minimalism; this track is not as repetitive as it first seems. The fifth section, "Pangea [sic], has no obvious connection to light or dark, though the scorching electronic effects introduced here glow and flash like lightning. It is inevitable that the Miles Davis electric album of the same name will come to mind, but a more informative comparison is Davis' Aura (Columbia, 1985), in which each section of Palle Mikkelborg's extended composition is meant to represent a different color.

The biggest weakness of Aura was the occasional introduction of rock and reggae rhythms which stimulate the tactile (but not the visual) sense. (It doesn't help that the full-color synesthesia of Mikkelborg is so rare and idiosyncratic that no two people exactly share it.) On Shadows, Taylor's occasional propulsive beats, as on "Funeral of Dreams, push the listener toward sensations of movement, straining the aesthetic whole, but his light touch and frequent rhythmic shifts minimize these intrusions.

In Praise of Shadows is an advance both musically and conceptually for the Chicago Underground Duo. Their sheer range of sounds has always been impressive, and without sacrificing stylistic breadth, they have created an album of impressive coherence.


Track Listing: Falling Awake; In Praise of Shadows; The Glass House; Cities Without Citadels; Pangea; Funeral of Dreams; The Light in Between.

Personnel: Rob Mazurek: cornet, organ, celeste, piano, prepared piano, harpsichord, noise box, moogerfooger analog delay, ring modulator; Chad Taylor: drums, cymbals, mbira, gongs, percussion, vibraphone, prepared vibraphone.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Thrill Jockey | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Playing the 60s" CD/LP/Track Review Playing the 60s
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 19, 2017
Read "Kansas City Here I Come" CD/LP/Track Review Kansas City Here I Come
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: February 10, 2017
Read "Together, As One" CD/LP/Track Review Together, As One
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 16, 2017
Read "Dobbeltgaenger" CD/LP/Track Review Dobbeltgaenger
by John Sharpe
Published: August 8, 2016
Read "Triple Exposure" CD/LP/Track Review Triple Exposure
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 30, 2016
Read "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" CD/LP/Track Review Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
by Edward Blanco
Published: August 29, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

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!

Buy it!