Exploding Star Orchestra
Green Mill; Fri 8, Sat 9
In 1996, those in need of a free-jazz fix wouldn’t have found it at the Hungry Brain, where the Umbrella Music collective’s Sunday jams are now a mainstay. No, the seventh day belonged to the Green Mill, where cornetist Rob Mazurek hosted weekly workshops that took shape as the Chicago Underground Orchestra.
It became Mazurek’s flagship vehicle, leading to a string of successful spin-offs in smaller combos, including the jazz-rock juggernaut Isotope 217. Almost a decade later, the cornetist stepped CUO up a notch with the sprawling Exploding Star Orchestra, a vessel for the visionary horn player to collaborate with avant-garde explorers like Bill Dixon, Roscoe Mitchell and Fred Anderson. Though none of those sage voices are on hand for this run, a lean version of this malleable group gives each member plenty of room to roam.
The nimble eight-piece lineup boasts some of the city’s finest players, including AACM copresident and flutist Nicole Mitchell, vibrant vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, Tortoise drummer John Herndon and vocalist Damon Locks of the Eternals. The program’s not too shabby, either, spotlighting the shimmering swing of “Sting Ray and the Begining of Time” and the slow-burning “Cosmic Tomes for Sleep Walking Lovers,” both from the ensemble’s 2007 debut, We Are All from Somewhere Else.
Also promised is the local premiere of an epic new suite, “63 Moons of Jupiter,” recently performed in São Paulo, Brazil, where Mazurek resides part of the time these days. Navigating themes of time and space, these forward-looking improvisers will fill the modest Mill with sweeping sonic abstractions and a little nostalgia.
Mazurek’s smaller combo, Sound Is, plays the Hideout on Wednesday 13.