Rob Mazurek Quintet
Champion cornetist Rob Mazurek has been reduced to an “honorary” Chicagoan since decamping for the tropical delights of São Paulo, Brazil, several years back. Which makes us all the more thankful that the former Green Mill staple and Chicago Underground mastermind still finds time to fly up and tend to his myriad projects, like electric jazz-funk vehicle Isotope 217 and his sprawling Exploding Star Orchestra. Recently, he’s used the latter to showcase free-jazz visionaries like trumpeter Bill Dixon and reedist Roscoe Mitchell.
Mazurek’s latest offering, Sound Is, marks the debut of yet another configuration of familiar faces. Isotope bandmates Matt Lux on electric bass and drummer John Herndon take the ride along with ESO companions Jason Adasiewicz on vibraphone and Josh Abrams on upright bass.
These locals already enjoy a well-established stylistic fraternity and musical camaraderie, recalling the finest in mid-to-late-’60s soul-searching postbop and avant-garde exploration. It’s all meticulously shaped and textured—as with the bluesy vamp fueling “The Hill” or the shimmering, mystical spirit of “The Star Splitter”—if only loosely structured.
While cuts such as the playful romp “The Earthquake Tree” reveal the expat can still have fun swinging, there’s no question that Mazurek is peering out ever further into the improv unknown. Still, his crisp, dry tone and infallible precision all but assure his place in the jazz pantheon. Ultimately, any excuse to listen to Mazurek reminds us why we’re glad he’ll always call Chicago home.