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Exploding Star Orchestra

Exploding Star Orchestra: In 2005, cornetist Rob Mazurek was approached by The Chicago Cultural Center and the Jazz Institute to put together a group that would represent the more contemporary / avant-garde side of sound in Chicago for a concert in Millennium Park’s Frank Gehry-designed concert hall. The music was conceptualized/composed in Manaus Brazil, Fontevraud, France and Chicago, and developed over more than a dozen performances of the Orchestra before it was recorded by John McEntire at his Soma Studio in Chicago.

We Are All From Somewhere Else is comprised of 3 distinct sections, and corresponds to a story involving an exploding star, cosmic transformation, a sting ray, the travels of the sting ray, intelligent conversations with electric eels, the destructive power of humans, the death and ascension of sting ray, the transformation of sting ray ghost to flying bird, and the transformation of bird to phoenix to rocket to flying burning matter to a new-born star.

Says Mazurek, “I could clearly see and hear the events as a kind of animated adult/children’s story that could be presented in book or video form. In the end you have a poem text based on the original story line that is then flipped backwards to reveal another perspective on the poem. The flipped text was orchestrated by Portuguese video artist and conceptualist Joao Simoes, while I was in Lisbon making final preparations for the release of this recording.”

As the arrangements of the parts of the pieces came together it became more and more evident that Nicole Mitchell’s flutes would play a major role in the realization of the music. That said the intent of the music is not to featuring individual players (although this very well could have featured any individual in the group, as they are all very strong soloists and improvisers) it is more about the projection of a certain sound pertaining to imagination and the trajectory of the sound as movement in time and space, weaving patterns and non-patterns around and inside the idea of the poem. The overall organic approach included actual organic sounds - for example, the sounds of electric eels recorded by Mazurek at INPA research laboratory in Manaus. The juxtaposition of two drums, two basses, two mallets, multiple flutes, two cornets, bass clarinet, ARP synthesizer, guitar, trombone, voices and flugelhorn all played important roles in the development of the final sound.

“Psycho-Tropic Electric Eel Dream” is a group improvisation centered around the sound of electric eels. The electric eel tanks Mazurek recorded at INPA contain two species of eels, Pulsating and Waveform. The sound was recorded in a special tank of 15-20 eels of various sub-species, each with its own tone. The results are fascinating tonal clusters not unlike the sound of violins. This track reveals the beauty of these fine creatures and juxtaposes our improvisation with them, and concludes with spoken word by Rob Mazurek (“Robert Ashley was in my head during this part”), some ARP by Jim Baker and some final cascades of Nicole’s flute, which was snuck into the recording on the bass amp mic sitting in the hallway while Nicole was playing in another room. “Black Sun” features Jim Baker’s lovely piano playing. “This piece was originally written for the great French pianist Jeanne-Pierre Armengaud,” says Mazurek, “who I had the pleasure of working with at Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud in France during my residency there.” What you hear is Jim’s emotionally charged and understated improvisation on the theme of the composition. The sound corresponds perfectly to the text/poem of the recording in which the death of the stingray is a new re-birth of the bird and eventually a new star.

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98
Album Review

Exploding Star Orchestra: Stars Have Shapes

Read "Stars Have Shapes" reviewed by Nic Jones


This release by the Exploding Star Orchestra is one of those rare examples of a present day unit able to travel to other places. Under the direction of cornet player and composer Rob Mazurek they've come up with a program of music which incorporates advances outside of the jazz tradition even while it strikes an extraordinary balance between established precedents and developments still in the process of fruition. Thus the collective voices on “Ascension Ghost Impression #2" ...

158
Album Review

Exploding Star Orchestra: Stars Have Shapes

Read "Stars Have Shapes" reviewed by Troy Collins


Stars Have Shapes is dedicated to the memory of recently deceased seminal free jazz innovators Fred Anderson and Bill Dixon, both of whom played with cornetist Rob Mazurek's all-star ensemble on separate occasions, including the magnificent summit meeting Bill Dixon With Exploding Star Orchestra (Thrill Jockey, 2008). Featuring a rotating cast of renowned Chicago improvisers, the Exploding Star Orchestra has become a mainstay in the Windy City's jazz scene and a significant part of Mazurek's growing discography.Sequenced like ...

258
Album Review

Exploding Star Orchestra: We Are All From Somewhere Else

Read "We Are All From Somewhere Else" reviewed by Jeff Dayton-Johnson


This record bristles with the hubris of an artist who ignores conventional notions of prevailing styles, blithely imposes his own aesthetic vision, and achieves a rousing artistic success in the end. That artist is Chicago-turned-São Paulo cornetist Rob Mazurek, who composed and conducted this performance.This record also bristles with the sound of electric eels. That's not a clumsy metaphor: I mean, literally, that Mazurek recorded eels in a special tank at a research laboratory in Brazil (two species, ...

528
Album Review

Exploding Star Orchestra: We Are All From Somewhere Else

Read "We Are All From Somewhere Else" reviewed by Troy Collins


Working from a commission by the Chicago Cultural Center and the Jazz Institute to assemble a group representing Chicago's contemporary avant-garde, cornetist/composer Rob Mazurek's newest venture, the Exploding Star Orchestra, has long since eclipsed its provisional origins. Conceptualized and composed between Brazil, France and the States, We Are All From Somewhere Else is as ambitious in scope as it is in execution.

Mazurek's recent music sounds partially inspired by his new home in São Paulo, where he lives ...

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Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Stars Have Shapes

Delmark Records
2010

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We Are All From...

Thrill Jockey
2007

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We Are All From...

Thrill Jockey
2006

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We Are All From...

Thrill Jockey Records
0

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