Nick Mazzarella's first trio recording Aviary in 2009, clocked in at just 30 minutes. Although brief, the compelling force of the saxophonist's presence signaled a new unblemished voice in jazz. He has gone on to become a strong presence in the Chicago jazz scene, performing with Ken Vandermark (Audio One & Chicago Reed Quartet), Rob Mazurek (Exploding Star Orchestra), Mars Williams, Fred Lonberg-Holm, and Mike Reed.
As a leader, he has formed a quartet, quintet, and can be heard in duo with drummer Dana Hall. Like tenor saxophonist JD Allen, the best vehicle for his concepts is within a long-standing trio. Mazzarella, bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Frank Rosaly have played a kind of push/pull for eight years now. Their previous recording was a live date This is Only a Test: Live at the Hungry Brain (2011).
As a saxophonist, Mazzarella channels Ornette Coleman through the intensity of Jackie McLean's piercing sound. His tone sets its compass outward, but remains firmly rooted within the post-hard bop-blues praxis.
Ultraviolet builds upon the trio's two previous discs, incorporating more of a group sound. Pieces like the opener "Neutron Star" still burn with the saxophonist's signature passion, but the music purposely builds to Hatwich's bass solo. Elsewhere the saxophone and bowed bass parallel each other on the warmhearted "Luminous Dials" piece. The music throughout maintains an inherent swing via Rosaly's pulse. Whether he is rattling metal bits or working the snare, there's always a musical pulse present. "Outlier" opens with a drum solo that gives way to a march, before several time changes are introduced. The band manages some tricky maneuvers with an unconcerned effortlessness.
The signature track, "Archaeopteryx," a dinosaur bird (I googled it) sums up the trio's progress to date. The music maintains an insistent melody that allows the band to stretch the music in any direction to create either a kind of dance music or if need be free jazz.
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