Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Chicago London Underground - A Night Walking Through Mirrors (Cuneiform, 2017)

This version of the ever changing Underground is a fascinating meeting of the minds with mainstays Rob Mazurek on cornet, sampler, electronics, voice and Chad Taylor on drums, mbira and electronics. On this album, they are joined by British musicians Alexander Hawkins on piano and John Edwards on bass. This album was recorded live at Cafe OTO in London on April 21, 2016. "A Night Spent Walking Through Mirrors" opens with pinched sounding cornet playing in open space, while bowed bass and propulsive piano provide wide slabs of sound from all directions. It is an urgent music with shades of electronics, space and dynamism at play. Punchy brass moves through deep piano and percussion, developing an excellent full band improvisation with squalls of piano and thick muscular bass. Wordless vocals are added, and that gives the music a new direction to explore. The group drops to near silence at the halfway point and plays with the sparsest delicacy, gaining volume ever so slowly with bowed bass, piano, and voice. Electronically enhanced cornet leads the group forward and the music develops a vigorous excitement with excellent driving piano and bass from the London contingent. "Something Must Happen" has compelling piano and percussion leading the music powerfully forward, with everyone coming together nicely building a stimulating improvisation. The tempo drops off a bit for a subtle section of spacious bass, percussion and buttery cornet. Scorching piano and drums rebuild the pace, with sawing bowed bass increasing the edginess and when slashing cornet enters, the music becomes truly enthralling. The music goes off on a tangent of spooky electronics reflecting differing images like a funhouse mirror. Electronic sounds add texture to "Boss Redux," with exciting drums and bowing, while Mazurek's cornet eases in, giving the music an updated Electric Miles feel before pulsing piano stretches the group's improvisation in a electro-acoustic direction. The group shows a lot of imagination as if they were making a soundtrack for their own private movie and continually adding different settings to explore. The music then moves into a leaner, softer section, with Mazurek showing his jazz chops by playing ballad brass with a quiet fire. "Mysteries of Emanating Light" has an excellent solo of rumbling drums to start things off, with Taylor demonstrating fabulous power and technique before the bass joins in and adds to the rhythmic sound. There's a fine acoustic quartet interlude here, and it's interesting to hear the way the music moves from electronically enhanced to acoustic, with the musicians using all of the possibilities at their disposal. Reverberating and echoing vocals take the music further out, and the music takes another turn with echoing horn, and boiling piano, bass and drums. This was a very good album with the four musicians at the top of their respective games. The wide open nature of the four long performances led to inspired soloing and very impressive group interplay. A Night Walking Through Mirrors - amazon.com

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