Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Rob Mazurek/Exploding Star Orchestra - Galactic Parables, Vol. 1 (Cuneiform, 2015)

Galactic Parables Vol. 1 is the beginning of an epic space opera by cornetist and composer Rob Mazurek, which is the musical equivalent of the works by great science fiction writers. The Exploding Star Orchestra is made up of some of the finest musicians in Chicago and beyond. They develop their own cosmic vibe, mixing socially conscious poetry and spoken word lyrics with progressive big band playing. The music is edgy and provocative: space may indeed be the place, but on earth the human race is still stricken with race hatred and un-avenged death. The early music on this album recorded live in Italy and moves from a deep eerie feeling of heavily reverberated sound, shifting abruptly to solo piano interludes. Spoken word and song bubble up from the music with the mix of recorded and live speech becoming quite powerful. This leads into “The Arc of Slavery #72 (Part 2)” which has very powerful and exciting drumming with electronic zaps arcing across the music, and a break for piano and guitar. “Helmets in Our Poisonous Thoughts #16/Awaken the World #41” features poetry over mysterious percussion and electric guitar as the brass swells majestically, higher and higher to the point of shrillness. The poetry and chanting return, but the voice is distorted electronically developing an ominous drone over which Mazurek plays a mournful trumpet. The strong full band underpins a floating clarinet solo on “Collections of Time,” and the group develops a rich percussion texture throughout the performance, shifting and swirling like the desert sand. The brass section is split, coming from different angels of the soundstage making for a disorienting feel before the percussion and clarinet move back in with some singing at the end. Poetry in distorted voices is supported by the music moving in waves on “Free Agents of Sound” the music is a haunted warning for all that comes before it. Guitar, bass and drums develop a subtle pocket groove, which builds as the remainder of the band surges underneath the guitar feature. Mazurak asserts himself again, playing his cornet over that wonderful bed of percussion which develops the rhythm of a tribe all their own. “Collections of Sound” opens with confusing buried speech before opening space for the music where cornet and piano play against looped speech. Drums move in with a deep, rolling cadence, supporting a strapping tenor saxophone solo. There is a delicate section for piano on “Make Way to the City” with bass and drums, which shimmer in and out of the music in phase with the light sound of clarinet and flute. The music opens to an extraordinary wide open vista, and the band plays one of their longest performances on the album, moving dynamically for delicate crystalline music to driving spiritual jazz. While Sun Ra’s orchestra may be the easiest (laziest) comparison for this band and album, they are completely modern and truly of their time. The music that is played is thoughtfully composed and improvised upon and the poetry and lyrics are deeply felt and thought provoking. Galactic Parables: Volume 1 - amazon.com

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