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Rob Mazurek: Rome

Karl Ackermann By

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Rob Mazurek has long been entrenched in his eclectic, global and multi-media creative sphere making it easy for listeners to forget his musical roots. With his 1994 leader debut, Man Facing East (Hep Records), he had already shown signs of breaking with convention, particularly on the title track of that album. The electro-acoustic cornet and keyboard player and visual artist began his music career in Chicago, working his way through hard bop and progressive rock before finding his place in the avant-garde/free improvisation sub-genres. The latter forms do little justice to the unique and varied approaches that Mazurek pursues across multiple group formations. Rome, is Mazurek's first solo outing since Vortice of the Faun (Astral Spirits, 2015), a very different, all-electronic noise album.

The cornet—one of many tools employed by Mazurek—has an upfront role that the artist has not extensively utilized in open playing for some time. Equal standing is given to acoustic piano and prepared piano, in contrast to Mazurek's frequent use of electronic keyboards. He also incorporates electronics on Rome but to a lesser—and more subtle—degree than in much of his recent work.

Rome consists of four relatively long tracks, each being dedicated to artists of varying influences. "Twombly At New Church" refers to painter and sculptor Cy Twombly whose projects focus on cultural aspects. Mazurek's cornet dominates the minimalist piece where haunting melody and stark silences alternate in space. "Gazing Through Walls (Two Paintings By Caravaggio)" is inspired by Michelangelo da Caravaggio, a sixteenth century Italian painter whose work influenced the Baroque period and featured the use of light to emphasize human emotion. Here, Mazurek primarily works with the piano but with subtle shadings from electronics.

"King Of Rome (For Pino Saulo)" refers to a well-known Italian radio producer at Radio3, and a concert promoter, dedicated to bringing the avant-garde to Italy's jazz audiences. While Mazurek's approach remains largely minimal on this piece, there are more of his familiar extended techniques at play. Much of the second half of the fifteen-plus minute composition is spent playing the strings inside the piano, giving the piece an exotic feel. The title says much about the nature of the closing piece, "Sweet Life In Disrepair (For Fellini)." Quirky, and by far the most abstract piece in the collection, its seventeen minutes are roughly divided between explosive brass expressions and the dark, dramatic piano that rumbles to the closing.

Mazurek is now widely recognized as a visual artist with multiple residencies and exhibits, so his affinity with that world and his ability to draw inspiration from the same, should be no surprise. Rome was recorded live for Rai Radiotre Suite Jazz in 2014 and it provides listeners an opportunity to hear Mazurek play in a more unadorned manner than his recent projects lend themselves to. His skills as a pianist will be an ear-opener to many recent fans as well. Rome adds yet another outstanding layer to Mazurek's œuvre.

Track Listing: Twombly at New Church; Gazing Through Walls (Two Paintings by Caravaggio); King of Rome (For Pino Saulo); Sweet Life in Disrepair (For Fellini).

Personnel: Rob Mazurek cornet, piano, prepared piano, electronics.

Title: Rome | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records

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