Sunday, September 15, 2019

Rob Mazurek - Desert Encrypts Vol. 1 (Astral Spirits, 2019)

Brass player and composer Rob Mazurek always manages to put together fascinating projects and this one is no different. He spent much of his career in Chicago and Sao Paulo before recently moving to Marfa, Texas. This album, the first of a series, is a suite based on his exploration of the desert around Marfa, and also explores his ongoing interest in the the natural world. It was presented in both written music and graphic scores for improvisation for an excellent group featuring Kris Davis on piano, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten on bass, Chad Taylor on drums plus Lynn Xu vocalizing one track. The music was recorded live in Marfa during Mazurek's own Desert Encrypts Festival in August 2018. Opening track “Encrypt II Spiral” has a bright swinging feel for quartet, developing an impressive intertwined melody, and the group initially works with a light sound like Taylor tapping dexterously across his drums while Davis lays carefully placed notes. The rhythm team is very tight and they play at high speed without a misstep, then making way for Manzarek to carve out a solo spot on piccolo trumpet. They come back together for an exciting collective improvisation anchored by excellent bass playing before returning to the delightful melody. The group glides gracefully into “ Encrypt II” with knotty rhythmic playing and longer lines of brass that arc across the more prominent drumming. Taylor is very percussive here, adding accents and asides to his drum work that are very cool and fit in well with the over all aesthetic of the performance. The piano is reserved and thoughtful, adding just the right burst of notes when needed, leading to a dark and stormy solo interlude. Davis also opens “Encrypt IV Bird Encrypt Morning Song” with a spare skeletal framework, with some electronics added creating a beautiful and evocative soundscape. The group joins four minutes in, furthering the majestic sensibility that she so brilliantly conveyed. Bursts of brass and drums echo forth, and the band comes together to take the music to an even higher plane, including a fine spot for soloing bass. “Encrypt IV Blue Haze” introduces Lynn Xu, in a track opened by subtle bass and electronics providing open space to be filled by her voice. Brushed percussion and spare piano frame her speaking, and there is the occasional burst of trumpet, before moving into a louder, freer improvisation. The full band comes together at high speed on “Encrypt 37,” creating a very appealing sound that is earnest, before dropping down dynamically for a spacious piano, bass and percussion trio spot, including another fine bass feature. Mazurek rejoins the action as the tempo increases toward a full boil, and everybody leans into the action. He sends waves of brass outward, met be urgent piano comping and powerhouse drumming, even vocalizing at one point. The final track on the album is “Encrypt 1” which uses electronic sounds to frame the piano, bass and drums, adding in trumpet and vocalization in a very free sounding opening. This is the most decidedly experimental track with the electronic aspect fully engaged with the acoustic instruments, before dropping out into a fully acoustic quartet. The group develops a medium uptempo track that is appealing and takes it further out with powerful gales of trumpet and a percussive rhythm section break incorporating a great drum solo. This album was very successful in capturing the band playing Mazurek's compositions in a focused and powerful manner. He has always been looking for new areas to explore and this album presents a new exciting development in a long string of forward thinking movements that have made up his career. Desert Encrypts Vol. 1

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