Rob Mazurek Octet — Skull Sessions
(Cuneiform Rune 349, 2013, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2013-06-26When I first listened to Skull Sessions' mixture of avant-jazz and electronics, I was reminded of George Russell's Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature, especially the 1968 version. So I went back to that album and refreshed my memory. By comparison, Skull Sessions (in spite of the fact that all but one of the tracks are over 13 minutes in length) sounds condensed. Electronic Sonata sprawls more, with its two 25+ minute parts, becoming almost ambient at times; Skull Sessions has fewer moments like that, though it's far from constant blasting. Mazurek's octet here consists of the leader on cornet and ring modulator (a big contributor to the retro-electronic feel); piccolo, flute, and female voice; drums; vibraphone; cavaquinho (a small guitar-like instrument) and percussion; keyboards and electronics; rabeca (a folk violin) and sax; and guitar and electronics - note the lack of a bass. Mazurek's composistions seem fairly loosely defined, with lots of room for expression and improvisation, and the players do an excellent job of not overcrowding the sound. During the improvised sections, even though it's rarely clear that anyone has a "solo," it's also not a complete free-for-all. Like good jazz players, they express themselves in such a way as to not overshadow the collective spirit, listening to each other and contributing to the success of the tune. There are some wonderful stretches where the drums and percussion groove along nicely and the other instruments slot together improvised phrases, not quite trading off, but not stepping on each other either. The intensity gradually builds up to a frenzy, which signals a change of some kind. This is really great stuff, supremely well crafted and executed, and a great entry into the ranks of adventurous jazz.
Related artist(s): Rob Mazurek
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more