Perambulating the Bounds

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mazurek's Mandarin Movie

Rob Mazurek brought his Mandarin Movie group to Nashville last week (at Ruby Green). Groups like this don’t make it here that often – big enough that they might reasonably expect to get paid a fair amount, but esoteric to some degree, so Nashville’s population gets in the way. Just not enough people who will pay to hear it. I gather there was a good house for a show his better known groups Isotope 217 and Chicago Underground Duo did, but I don’t know how often those groups have come through.

Mandarin Movie has a core of four guys: Mazurek on cornet and electronics, Jason Ajemian on acoustic bass, Matt Lux on electric base, and Frank Rosaly on drums. On records and some gigs guitarist Alan Licht and trombonist Steve Swell are also in the group. In the recording I focused on all that bass frequency that gives the sound a wide foundation that seeps into every corner of the aural space and sets up dense harmonics above it.

The performance on this show was more muscular, some of it because I didn’t watch much of the show from the middle of the sound so maybe the low sounds didn’t have the same physical impact. But I think it was also the case that there were more active lines coming from the basses and Rosaly was more prominent in punching the sound.

The music sounded like a lot of things, but what struck me was the role of Mazurek’s cornet playing, and its strong jazz qualities. At many times the focal point was the line Mazurek was setting out on cornet, spaced and phrased with an impeccable jazz sense of time, pace, and shape. The closest analog at times was Bitches Brew, where the trumpet picks a path over the churning sound underneath, but Mazurek’s playing was less constrained and limited than Miles on those recordings (Miles is great on the recordings of that era, but within the context of a perfect pitch minimalism). The frame of reference seemed broader, calling on the core jazz tradition of playing and also more of the range of free jazz playing.

http://www.robmazurek.com/

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