11

Pharoah & The Underground: Spiral Mercury

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Pharoah & The Underground: Spiral Mercury The formation of the Chicago Underground collective in the late '90s provided cornetist Rob Mazurek with an unrestrictive setting to explore the endless possibilities of creative improvised music with his Windy City peers. A lengthy sojourn in Brazil followed, resulting in a similar project—the São Paulo Underground. Mazurek's international activities subsequently established him as a prolific composer and industrious bandleader.

It was the release of Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra (Thrill Jockey, 2008), Mazurek's fortuitous collaboration with vanguard trumpeter Bill Dixon, that confirmed his credentials as a visionary avant-gardist. The equally enthralling Matter Anti-Matter (caught on tape in 2009 and issued by Rogue Art in 2013) followed, pairing the Orchestra with iconic AACM multi-instrumentalist Roscoe Mitchell. Recorded at the 2013 Jazz em Agosto Festival in Portugal, Spiral Mercury continues Mazurek's practice of working with venerated masters, featuring members of the Chicago Underground and São Paulo Underground supporting none other than tenor titan Pharoah Sanders.

In contrast to the Rogue Art set, in which Mitchell was an invited guest, Pharoah & The Underground is a working band and Spiral Mercury is its debut, featuring Sanders as the primary soloist. Sanders' infamously histrionic delivery has matured over the years into a burnished lyricism reminiscent of his former employer, John Coltrane, but his expressive potential remains undiminished, as demonstrated on the title track, where he unleashes spiraling cadences that ascend from plangent refrains to fervent multiphonic cries. Mazurek makes an apt foil for the revered saxophonist throughout the set, his protean versatility encompassing everything from coruscating fusillades to hushed motifs.

Underpinning the muscular frontline, Matthew Lux's throbbing electric bass lines and Chad Taylor's nimble trap set work provide pliant rhythms for Mauricio Takara's amplified cavaquinho and Guilherme Granado's analog synth ruminations, coalescing in a psychedelic bitches brew. The Dark Prince's influence can be heard in the episodic drama of "Gna Toom," whereas the mutant funk of "The Ghost Zoo" suggests an electro-acoustic reinvention of the New Thing's torrid expressionism.

The majority of the program consists of extended variations on some of Mazurek's most resilient tunes. In addition to the titular cut, which is culled from the Pulsar Quartet's Stellar Pulsations (Delmark, 2012), the groove-laden "Blue Sparks From Her" originally appeared on the Chicago Underground Duo's Synesthesia (Thrill Jockey, 2000), while the lively "Pigeon" and anthemic "Jagoda's Dream" were first documented on São Paulo Underground's Três Cabeças Loucuras (Cuneiform, 2011).

Masterfully balancing abstract concepts with accessible forms, Mazurek conveys his innovative experiments in an adventurous but approachable manner; this is music that truly sings the body electric. Even with its slightly raw live sound, Spiral Mercury is an excellent example of his oeuvre, fully realized by the vital contributions of his longstanding sidemen and one living legend.

Track Listing: Gna Toom; Spiral Mercury; Blue Sparks from Her; Asasumamehn; Pigeon; Jagoda's Dream; The Ghost Zoo.

Personnel: Pharoah Sanders: saxophones; Rob Mazurek: cornet, electronics; Chad Taylor: drums; Matt Lux: electric bass, guitar; Guilherme Granado: keyboards, vibraphone, marimba; Maurício Takara: percussion, electronics, cavaquinho.

Title: Spiral Mercury | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Eleven Cages CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Cages
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Afro-Caribbean Mixtape CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Wake Up Call CD/LP/Track Review Wake Up Call
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 27, 2017
Read The Late Trane CD/LP/Track Review The Late Trane
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Developing Story CD/LP/Track Review Developing Story
by Edward Blanco
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall) CD/LP/Track Review Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)
by Phil Barnes
Published: June 26, 2017
Read "Rubicon" CD/LP/Track Review Rubicon
by John Kelman
Published: July 29, 2016
Read "Small World" CD/LP/Track Review Small World
by Edward Blanco
Published: April 26, 2017
Read "The Long Road" CD/LP/Track Review The Long Road
by Troy Collins
Published: November 20, 2016
Read "Agartha" CD/LP/Track Review Agartha
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 14, 2016
Read "That Feelin'" CD/LP/Track Review That Feelin'
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 7, 2016
Read "Clockwise / The Music of Cedar Walton" CD/LP/Track Review Clockwise / The Music of Cedar Walton
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 11, 2017

Smart Advertising!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.