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On the surface, cornet and keyboard player Rob Mazurek doesn't seem to have a lot of time for the past. His commitment to music outside of any overt "jazz" continuum helps keep him fresh and avoid the sterility of a neo-conservative stance, so that even when the experimental nature of the music misfires, the degree of commitment still shines through.
All of this is apparent when his cornet comes to the fore on "The Earthquake Tree," where soloist and band coalesce nicely in a setting tinged in equal measure by fusion and post-bop, but without any of their usual connotations. Certainly the music doesn't consciously ape much of what's gone before, and while the weight of history lies with it, it's still shot through with freshness.
"Dragon Kites" is something else however, very much a product of the present day. Leading on cornet again, Mazurek starts out repetitiously with minimal, negligible phrasing, yet the ebb and flow of the music is far from predictable. The music rides on waves of depth and substance, enough to throw the whole effect off-balance, again revealing Mazurek's impatience with the past, as if it's a place worthy only of reflection as opposed to awe. When Mazurek does solo in the widely understood sense of the term, there is an ambiguity about his contribution that makes it unpredictable.
On "Cinnamon Tree," the spirit of electric Miles Davis stalks the music's fringes in the way stealth and propulsion come together. John Herndon on drums and Jason Adasiewicz on vibes create that feeling as they seem to keep the music from sounding aimless. The feel of ambient music is held in check through rhythmic involvement, and the leader again shows how disinterested he is in the soloist-with-accompaniment format. His repetition of phrases is studied yet lacking in calculation.
By contrast, the increased tempo of "The Dream Rocker" could almost be the work of a different band shrugging off the restraint that marks so much of the program. Mazurek's band makes the same point in a different way on "Beauty Wolf," where the free and reflective co-exist, making the very unity of the program a thing of wonder.
Track Listing: 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; Microraptagonafly; Aphrodite Rising; The Field; Nora Grace.
Personnel: Rob Mazurek: cornet, synthesiser, piano; Jason Adasiewicz: vibes; Josh Abrams: bass, piano; Matthew Lux: bass guitar; John Herndon: drums, percussion, tenori-on.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.