Chicago Underground Trio

Delmark DE 573

Kaleidoscopic and non-idiomatic, Chronicle demonstrates how this trio has purposely intertwined influences ranging from Free Jazz to electronica-tinged ambient sounds to germinate a distinctive statement. While the CD encapsulates what the combo has been building towards over its decade of existence, it also demonstrates the band’s flexibility in accepting fresh input.

That comes from bassist Jason Ajemian, whose double-stopping, string-pumping debut carves out a groove as early as the first track. Extending the rhythmic function with electronics, and sticking throughout to a bottom-defining ostinato, he provides the anchor for the improvisations of long-time band members, cornetist Rob Mazurek and drummer Chad Taylor.

Taylor also plays vibraphone, marimba, mbira and assorted percussion, while Mazurek is proficient on bamboo flute, computer, moog, electric celeste, and other percussion, But these auxiliary instruments are used only when generically necessary. Thus many tracks echo with quivering textures triggered from Mazurek’s electronically-altered cornet, spelled by hand-pumped drumming, connective vibraphone clattering, thumb piano echoing and keyboard note patterning.

Most notable is “Power”, the disc’s more-than-28½-minute centrepiece. On top of double time, adagio rhythm, Mazurek’s Harmon-muted grace notes unexpectedly reveal a rasping blues line. When resonating toy-piano-like mbira patterns follow, they obliquely collide with sweeping, electronic drones, as the futuristic and the primordial meld. Throughout, no matter how many mechanically cloned rubato cornet runs appear or how intense the triggered drones, the emotional patterning from acoustic instruments is never masked. A Chronicle DVD is also available.

— Ken Waxman


For Whole Note Vol. 12 #10