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Rob Mazurek's São Paulo Underground at Jazz Gallery

Karl Ackermann By

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Rob Mazurek's São Paulo Underground and Black Cube SP
Jazz Gallery
New York, NY
April 11, 2015

The Jazz Gallery, in NYC's Flatiron District, provided an intimate and unassuming setting for Rob Mazurek's São Paulo Underground and Black Cube SP performance on April 11. The SPU trio, featuring Mazurek on cornet, percussion and electronics, Mauricio Takara on drums, electronics and cavaquinho (a small Portuguese guitar instrument) and Guilherme Granado on keyboard, synthesizer and sampler, were joined later by Thomas Rohrer on rabeca, a Brazilian viola. Rohrer is a Swiss native living in Brazil and his addition to SPU creates the splinter formation, Black Cube SP.

Outside SPU, Takara has been involved in a number of Mazurek-led projects as part of the Exploding Star Orchestra and the Skull Sessionsoctet as well as recording as leader and composing for film. Granado is a frequent Mazurek collaborator having contributed to the Exploding Star Electro Acoustic Ensemble multi-media project, The Space Between (Delmark, 2013) which included the work of videographer/choreographer Marianne M. Kim and of which Takara was also a participant. Granado also appeared on Return the Tides: Ascension Suite and Holy Ghost (Cuneiform, 2014), one of two projects inspired by Mazurek's mother.

A whirlwind US tour that lasts only to May 1, (and will feature the quartet formation), had its second concert in here in New York, where Mazurek stops too infrequently. That said, for those fortunate to see the Jazz Gallery performance were treated to ninety minutes of music that will be engrained in their memories for a very long time. Passive listening was hardly an option as the audience was drawn in by artists immersed in the moment and a creative process where the musicians' inner dialog could be read on their faces. Throughout a strenuous set that consisted mostly of medleys from the SPU catalog, the band barely came up for air other than a few seconds for introductions and to welcome Rohrer to the stage.

The night began with "Jagoda's Dream" from Três Cabeças Loucuras (Cuneiform, 2011), one of the more recognizable SPU pieces having also been covered on Pharoah & The Underground -Spiral Mercury (Clean Feed Records, 2014). The trio then reached back to Sauna: Um, Dois, Três (Aesthetics, 2006) for "Pombaral" and onto Beija Flors Velho E Sujo (Cuneiform, 2013) "Ol' Dirty Hummingbird" and "Evetch." The transitions were uninterrupted and full of invention as the trio would no sooner land at some ostensibly new found destination, then they would move on to another, driven in equal measure by attack and reflection.

The trio drew from Três Cabeças Loucuras intermittently, featuring "Just Lovin'" and "Lado Leste" and revisited Beija Flors Velho E Sujo to cover "Asnur Nusra." Rohrer joined in for a long version of "Skull Caves of Alderon" from Mazurek's octet album Skull Sessions (Cuneiform, 2013). The piece began with a gentle Celtic flavor as Rohrer plucked the rabeca but the pace quickly became feverish; the quartet working through the musical catharsis. Like each cluster of compositions, it was energizing and unique, varying from meditative supernal ascents to enthusiastically thundering drums, synthesized bass and the leader's soaring vibrato.

This was a brilliant performance from artists who know no bounds and Mazurek goes way beyond conventional thinking in his compositions and presentation. The orderly chaos—more controlled than was apparent—integrates with a spiritual calm; chants, bells and an otherworldly atmosphere, hypnotically setting the stage for another shambolic turn of events. This was not just a music event, but theater that provoked a full range of emotions on and off the stage.

This brief tour runs up through May 1 with stops in Eastern, Mid-west and Southern locations including Chicago, New Orleans, Nashville, San Antonio and many other locations. It's an adrenaline-charged experience, full of beauty and struggle and it shouldn't be missed.

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