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The music of the Chicago Underground Trio (and Duo and Quartet and Orchestra) has always been about fragments of sound. Not so much abstract disassociation (of those fragments) but discovery of associations and the connotations of their similarities.
Whether they are post-Miles, post-Ornette, post-rock, or simply the new Chicago aesthetic, the Trio is pulling together the disassembled threads of late-'60s jazz experimentalism into an all-encompassing sound.
Where their earlier outings relied heavily on studio manipulation, Slon keeps post-production to a minimum. Not that cornetist Rob Mazurek and bassist Noel Kupersmith have given up their laptops. Plenty of sampled sounds appear here, with the sounds of the fish market heard on “Palermo.” The musicians are not opposed to setting aside the acoustic to meander through electronic beats. The genius of the CU is their seamless integration of the two. The track “Zagreb” hums with industrial gray noise before Kupersmith’s resigning bass line enters more than halfway through the piece, and the trio plays over the din until it fades. The emotional content of both the turbulence and the human touch are duly noted.
The power center here is certainly drummer Chad Taylor, who applies constant energy throughout. His simple solo intro to “Campbell Town” and rocked-out rhythms on “Sevens” launch Mazurek’s cornet both into a convincing incarnation of the late Don Cherry. Like Cherry, they play a sincere form of world music.
Slon was recorded after the trio returned from a European tour that began as George W started his world war. Needless to say, the band was effected by those (these) turbulent times. The opening track “protest” burns with anger and helplessness. Sure, I’m interpreting the powerful drive here, but Mazurek and Kupersmith’s overdubbed instruments leave little to the imagination.