Marilyn Mazur's Shamania — Marilyn Mazur's Shamania
(RareNoise RNR103, 2019, CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2019-07-07
Listening to Marilyn Mazur’s Shamania is like receiving an invitation to visit a new world, one that developed along different lines than ours, where peace and positivity are as inspiring of art as conflict and pain are in ours. It’s a cliché that pain brings out great art in some people, and I won’t deny that it can be true, but it brings up a kind of moral question: Is it right for us to derive pleasure for the suffering of others, even if they are exposing that suffering willingly (and we weren’t the ones to cause it in the first place)? It’s a potentially interesting question, but it wanders far afield from what I’m here to do, which is tell readers about this fascinating album. Veteran percussionist Marilyn Mazur has assembled an ensemble of skilled players to interpret her compositions: on bass is Ellen Andrea Wang, who is known to our readers for her work with Pixel and White Willow; Makiko Hirabayashi is on piano; Lotte Anker and Sissel Vera Peterson play saxes, and Peterson also sings; brass is contributed by Lis Wessberg (trombone) and Hildegunn Øiseth (trumpet, goat horn); Mazur’s percussion is augmented by that of Lisbeth Diers and Josefine Cronholm, who also sings. All are veterans of European jazz, with dozens of credits in various jazz bands and as leaders. The voices are used as additional instruments in the arrangements rather than as merely vehicles for lyrics (though there are some lyrics here and there), further broadening the sounds available. The percussion especially is quite diverse, from tinkling bells to gongs and various kinds of hand drum as well as a drum kit. Mazur also contributes mallet instruments, notably balafon. Hirabayashi’s piano deserves special mention as well — while she does sometimes dip into jazz idioms, her playing is mostly impressionistic, with splashy flourishes of notes more like wind chimes than a piano. The vocals range from ethereal soaring to more gritty sounds with rhythmic impact. All of the horns are outstanding, both on the arranged parts and in the improvisations. The compositions include atmospheric, free-floating tunes like “Behind Clouds” and the catchy song-like “Crawl Out and Shine,” which is like modal jazz infused with a hint of African pop. Many of Mazur’s previous recordings have been released by ECM, where her abstract, impressionistic melange of sounds from around the world is right at home. Kudos to RareNoise for giving this outstanding music a home.
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