Rob Mazurek and Tortoise: New Chicago

Mark Corroto By

Sign in to view read count
The "Chicago sound" may be a misnomer when used to describe the music of cornetist Rob Mazurek and the band Tortoise, but the unpretentious experimentalism of both sits foursquare in the city's musical tradition. Chicago has nurtured innovative artists from trumpeter Louis Armstrong through keyboardist Sun Ra. The Chicago-based AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) meanwhile is a touchstone for not only the new music of the 1960s, but also for the return of Chicago jazz to the improvised music vanguard in the 1990s, a revitalisation which is continuing into the new millennium.

Rob Mazurek
Sound Is

Rob Mazurek has carved a niche in new music that began with bebop, edged into progressive rock and then exploded into free improvisation. His early Chicago roots found him playing with Gastr del Sol, Tortoise on TNT (Thrill Jockey, 1998), and recording with Tortoise's guitarist Jeff Parker in the Chicago Underground Orchestra. Here he taps Tortoise's drummer John Herndon into his new quintet with electric bassist Matthew Lux (Exploding Star Orchestra), acoustic bassist Josh Abrams (Nicole Mitchell, Mike Reed) and soon-to-be superstar vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz.

Mazurek's Sound Is first steps in the footprints of fellow Chicagoan Roscoe Mitchell's manifesto Sound (Delmark , 1966), before veering off into new directions. The cornetist, a faithful student of Bill Dixon, has matured into a technically skilled composer and dexterous player. He can play skittering notes that flash brightly or manage a mute, painting somber hues of emotion. His love of the smash and scatter sound is evident on "Beauty Wolf" and "Aphrodite Rising." With Mazurek's coming-of-age as a player, he can hold together these outward sections.

He is also adept at making the more accessible interesting. The progressive sounds of "The Dream Rocker" and "The Field" hold the listener's attention, with the fiery drumming of Herndon on "Rocker" and with Adasiewicz's solos on both. Mazurek's presence can be heard on the latter, playing off-mike, but like trumpeter Miles Davis before him, his whispers are not to go unnoticed.

Visit Rob Mazurek on the Web.

Beacons Of Ancestorship
Thrill Jockey

After nearly twenty years of music making, the band Tortoise (on its sixth full length release) continues to define and redefine the term "post-rock." Beacons Of Ancestorship follows It's All Around You (Thrill Jockey, 2004) and the interim covers record The Brave And The Bold (Thrill Jockey, 2006), with Bonnie "Prince" Billy aka Will Oldham, and A Lazarus Taxon (Thrill Jockey, 2006), a four disc CD and DVD compilation of singles, remixes and rare sides.

True to their all-embracing nature the band members bring multiple approaches to the table. The recognizable guitar of Jeff Parker (Chicago Underground, Fred Anderson, Isotope 217) is featured throughout, as is the progressive rock language of drummer and keyboardist John McEntire (Sea And Cake, The Red Krayola). The band scoops a bit of synthesizer from over here and some distortion from over there to create mini capsules of music. These pills of sound are introduced as progressive rock meets jazz on "Prepare Your Coffin" or as a distortion rock anthem on "Yinxianghechengqi." They twist their take on Muslimgauze's dreamy territories with "Monument Six One Thousand" and drop an organ funeral dirge meets 1970s horror movie theme with the short-ish "De Chelly."

Tortoise's "such is life" attitude is reflected in "The Fall Of Seven Diamonds Plus One," whose homologous sounds replicate the Jackie Treehorn musical segment from the movie The Big Lebowski, complete with the dreamy guitar and native games. By the closing piece, "Charteroak Foundation," which could be identified as a Chicago Underground Trio outing, listeners having exhausted their connect the dots reference games will realize that Tortoise is summing up much of the music made since the late 1970s, while pushing in new and varied directions.

Visit Tortoise on the Web.

Tracks and Personnel

Sound Is

Tracks: As If An Angel Fell From The Sky; The Earthquake Tree; Dragon Kites; The Star Splitter; The Hill; Le Baiser (The Kiss); The Lightning Field; Cinnamon Tree; The Dream Rocker; Beauty Wolf; Microraptagonfly; Aphrodite Rising; The Field; Nora Grace.

Personnel: Rob Mazurek: cornet, synthesizer, piano; Jason Adasiewicz: vibraphone; Matthew Lux: bass guitar; Josh Abrams: acoustic bass, piano; John Herndon: drums, percussion, tenori-on.

Beacons Of Ancestorship

Tracks: High Class Slim Came Floatin' In; Prepare Your Coffin; Northern Something; Gigantes; Penumbra; Yinxianghechengqi; The Fall Of Seven Diamonds Plus One; Minors; Monument Six One Thousand; De Chelly; Charteroak Foundation.

Personnel: Dan Bitney: bass, guitar, percussion, vibes, marimba, keyboards, baritone saxophone; John McEntire: drums, modular synthesizer, ring modulator guitar, electric harpsichord, keyboards; John Herndon: drums, vibraphone, keyboards, sequencing; Jeff Parker: guitar, bass; Doug McCombs: bass, six string bass, guitar, lap steel guitar.

Related Video


More Articles

Read Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago Multiple Reviews Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 21, 2017
Read New, Notable and Nearly Missed Multiple Reviews New, Notable and Nearly Missed
by Phil Barnes
Published: January 25, 2017
Read Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas Multiple Reviews Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas
by Doug Collette
Published: January 14, 2017
Read Weekertoft Hits Its Stride… Multiple Reviews Weekertoft Hits Its Stride…
by John Eyles
Published: January 7, 2017
Read Ivo Perelman: The Art of the Improv Trio Multiple Reviews Ivo Perelman: The Art of the Improv Trio
by Jim Trageser
Published: January 4, 2017
Read 2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon Multiple Reviews 2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 3, 2017
Read "Carla Bley & Jack DeJohnette: ECM Trios" Multiple Reviews Carla Bley & Jack DeJohnette: ECM Trios
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 2, 2016
Read "Paul Kelly: Seven Sonnets & A Song and Death's Dateless Night" Multiple Reviews Paul Kelly: Seven Sonnets & A Song and Death's Dateless Night
by Doug Collette
Published: October 16, 2016
Read "Emanem Tidies Up" Multiple Reviews Emanem Tidies Up
by John Eyles
Published: December 19, 2016
Read "Montreux Through The Decades: Jazz Recordings, Part One" Multiple Reviews Montreux Through The Decades: Jazz Recordings, Part One
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 27, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

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!