Chicago Underground Duo
Neither Rob Mazurek nor Chad Taylor calls Chicago home any longer. Their fifth album as Chicago Underground Duo, Boca Negra (“black mouth”), wasn’t even recorded in our city. Instead, the long-term collaborators worked in São Paulo, Brazil, where Mazurek resides part-time when not globe-trotting with his Exploding Star Orchestra and other projects. NYC-based Taylor likewise keeps busy, gigging with everyone from Marc Ribot to Iron and Wine.
The titular town isn’t the only way the band’s name is deceptive. Drafting longtime co-conspirator Matt Lux into the fold, the Duo’s crafted a trio album. Lux works largely behind the boards as producer but adds plenty of personality, even playing bass on a few cuts.
Boca is the first album to wear the CUD badge in four years, but time apart hasn’t made a dent in the unique chemistry. Taylor gracefully dances around the drums on an abstraction of Ornette Coleman’s “Broken Shadows,” hammering out notes on the vibes while Mazurek’s skittering cornet navigates the fray. Plucked mbira flecks the cool blue haze of Mazurek’s horn on the hypnotic ambient detour “Quantum Eye.” The jarring piano seizures opening “Confliction” give way to a taut bass riff from Lux. Even the most abstract cut, “Roots and Shooting Stars,” feels elegantly understated as muted brass tones collide with chirping thumb piano.
Though tropical vibes streak through this sun-baked concoction, the unfettered creativity coursing through the disc is unmistakably Chicagoan.