Rob Mazurek: Sound Is (Delmark, 2009)
What I keep thinking back to, though is the time I saw him live, with the Exploding Star Orchestra in Chicago: a rich jazz mixture with deep roots in ’60s writing and a penchant for soaring free solos. Mazurek led Exploding Star through a handful of long suites, and the tracks on Sound Is string together the same way.
There’a soulful, melodic feeling to most of the album, even when there aren’t precise composed lines being played. Vibraphone adds a breezy comfort even in the more free/abstract sections. The overall loose feel to the music is a lot like the Chicago Underground albums (wasn’t the Chicago Underground Duo the one with vibraphone?)
And there’s a dose of electronics, too, recalling Mazurek’s dabblings with the more recent Chicago Undergrounds and Isotope 217. “Microaptagonafly,” which comes up late in the album, sets the trumpet against a chiming electronics background that starts out quiet but gets increasingly shrill. “Beauty Wolf” is another experiment, kind of a ballet for robots of the future.
It’s really the tracks like “The Earthquake Tree” and “Dragon Kites” that set the mood, though — jazzy work that’s free in spirit and quite busy, but doesn’t feel busy. There’s a relaxed atmosphere even as the playing gets fiery; that’s one of the standout qualities of this album.