Tag Archives: Spiral Mercury

Jazz Magazine review by François-René Simon

CF301Chicago/São Paulo Underground Feat. Pharoah Sanders – Pharoah & The Underground – Spiral Mercury (CF 301)

CF301_Jazzmag

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins

CF301Pharoah & The Underground – Spiral Mercury (CF 301)
****
The formation of the Chicago Underground collective in the late ’90s provided cornetist Rob Mazurek with an unrestrictive setting to explore the endless possibilities of creative improvised music with his Windy City peers. A lengthy sojourn in Brazil followed, resulting in a similar project—the São Paulo Underground. Mazurek’s international activities subsequently established him as a prolific composer and industrious bandleader.

It was the release of Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra (Thrill Jockey, 2008), Mazurek’s fortuitous collaboration with vanguard trumpeter Bill Dixon, that confirmed his credentials as a visionary avant-gardist. The equally enthralling Matter Anti-Matter (caught on tape in 2009 and issued by Rogue Art in 2013) followed, pairing the Orchestra with iconic AACM multi-instrumentalist Roscoe Mitchell. Recorded at the 2013 Jazz em Agosto Festival in Portugal, Spiral Mercury continues Mazurek’s practice of working with venerated masters, featuring members of the Chicago Underground and São Paulo Underground supporting none other than tenor titan Pharoah Sanders.

In contrast to the Rogue Art set, in which Mitchell was an invited guest, Pharoah & The Underground is a working band and Spiral Mercury is its debut, featuring Sanders as the primary soloist. Sanders’ infamously histrionic delivery has matured over the years into a burnished lyricism reminiscent of his former employer, John Coltrane, but his expressive potential remains undiminished, as demonstrated on the title track, where he unleashes spiraling cadences that ascend from plangent refrains to fervent multiphonic cries. Mazurek makes an apt foil for the revered saxophonist throughout the set, his protean versatility encompassing everything from coruscating fusillades to hushed motifs.

Underpinning the muscular frontline, Matthew Lux’s throbbing electric bass lines and Chad Taylor’s nimble trap set work provide pliant rhythms for Mauricio Takara’s amplified cavaquinho and Guilherme Granado’s analog synth ruminations, coalescing in a psychedelic bitches brew. The Dark Prince’s influence can be heard in the episodic drama of “Gna Toom,” whereas the mutant funk of “The Ghost Zoo” suggests an electro-acoustic reinvention of the New Thing’s torrid expressionism.

The majority of the program consists of extended variations on some of Mazurek’s most resilient tunes. In addition to the titular cut, which is culled from the Pulsar Quartet’s Stellar Pulsations (Delmark, 2012), the groove-laden “Blue Sparks From Her” originally appeared on the Chicago Underground Duo’s Synesthesia (Thrill Jockey, 2000), while the lively “Pigeon” and anthemic “Jagoda’s Dream” were first documented on São Paulo Underground’s Três Cabeças Loucuras (Cuneiform, 2011).

Masterfully balancing abstract concepts with accessible forms, Mazurek conveys his innovative experiments in an adventurous but approachable manner; this is music that truly sings the body electric. Even with its slightly raw live sound, Spiral Mercury is an excellent example of his oeuvre, fully realized by the vital contributions of his longstanding sidemen and one living legend.
Track Listing: Gna Toom; Spiral Mercury; Blue Sparks From Her; Asasumamehn; Pigeon; Jagoda’s Dream; The Ghost Zoo.

http://www.allaboutjazz.com/spiral-mercury-rob-mazurek-clean-feed-records-review-by-troy-collins.php?width=1024

Jazz.pt review by Gonçalo Falcão

CF300LPPharoah & The Underground – Primative Jupiter (CF 300 LP) / Spiral Mercury (CF 301)
*****
Em boa hora (2009) a Gulbenkian começou a permitir a edição de alguns dos seus concertos no Jazz em Agosto. Pena é que esta ideia não tenha começado em 1983, para podermos hoje ter discos de elevadíssima qualidade gravados no Anfiteatro ao Ar Livre. Circulam cópias de alguns desses concertos na Internet (Sun Ra, por exemplo), dando a perceber que se perderam notáveis registos musicais.

Os dois novos itens da Jazz em Agosto Series da Clean Feed são um CD e um LP de Pharoah & The Underground, e apesar da mesma capa, o compacto e o vinil têm conteúdos diferentes, pois as quase duas horas de concerto possibilitaram a partição: o LP “Primative Jupiter”) traz dois temas que não estão no CD e este (“Spiral Mercury”) cinco que não se encontram na outra edição. Más notícias para os bolsos.

O concerto que encerrou o festival do ano passado (e que esteve em dúvida devido a problemas de saúde do histórico saxofonista) juntou Pharoah Sanders a uma formação que fundiu o Chicago e o São Paulo Underground (ambos os grupos liderados pelo cornetista e compositor Rob Mazurek).

Mazurek é o centro de toda a acção, não só pelas suas gigantescas capacidade melódica e inteligência musical – o seu ouvido, em suma – como enquanto estratega, capaz de visionar ideias para palco. As duas formações têm personalidades muito diferentes: na São Paulo Underground predomina a electrónica “lo-fi”, suja e em reprocessamento dos sons da música popular brasileira (cavaquinho, cuíca), com uma expressividade completamente nova (ou seja, não colada ao estereótipo brasileiro). Já o Chicago Underground gosta de territórios completamente diferentes, com o baixo eléctrico em linhas repetitivas que prendem toda a música e a bateria a construir uma base infernal, dando sentido às melodias que Mazurek desenvolve.

Ao vivo, os dois grupos adaptaram-se perfeitamente, com os de Chigago a marcarem ritmos e os de São Paulo a aceitá-los, acentuando a componente tímbrica. Ouvido agora com mais detalhe e repetidamente, a impressão inicial – boa – afina-se para melhor. É o cornetista que define os temas e lança a estrutura da melodia, deixando Sanders livre para solar. O jazz “afro-cósmico-espiritual” de Sanders continua a funcionar e o seu sopro permanece lírico e espiritual, mas agora mais discreto e menos interventivo.

O saxofone aparece a espaços, sem muita força, optando muitas vezes por surgir sob o trompete de Mazurek, como se o quisesse acentuar e colorir. Mais próximo do Miles eléctrico do que de Coltrane, Pharoah actua com um radar que capta e desenvolve ideias. Usa muitas vezes linhas melódicas longas e tranquilas, como se preferisse surfar aquela onda calmamente do que intervir com solos inflamados, como cabe a uma estrela. O resultado é claramente mais interessante assim, sem o Pharoah que se esperaria (e que o título do disco sugere), mas com uma música globalmente muito boa de ouvir.

É ainda melhor assim porque, em vez de a lenda se museografar, tocando o que já lhe conhecemos e o que dele esperamos, reinventa-se, num contexto diferente, onde passa a ser só mais um. Não é menos lenda por isso, mas é muito mais viva.

http://jazz.pt/ponto-escuta/2014/08/24/pharoah-underground-primative-jupiter-spiral-mercury-clean-feed/

Dalston Sound review by Tim Owen

CF301Pharoah & The Underground – Spiral Mercury (CF 301)
Spiral Mercury (Clean Feed) documents a live performance by a group led by Rob Mazurek, with onetime Coltrane sparring partner, original astro traveller and transcriber of the creator’s master plan, tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders prominent in the front line.

While Sanders understandably gets top billing and the lion’s share of kudos, all of the material for this date was composed by cornettist and bandleader, and the ensemble’s other members are all involved in one or other of Mazurek’s Underground Ensembles: Chad Taylor’s the mainstay of the Chicago chapter, Guilherme Granado and Mauricio Takara ditto for São Paulo. Matthew Lux played alongside Mazurek in collaborative powerhouse ensemble Mandarin Movie, and he’s also in Mazurek’s Exploding Star project.

Spiral Mercury documents the set this occasional ensemble played to close the 2013 Jazz em Agosto festival in Portugal.

“Gna Toom” drops the listener straight into a long, contemplative exchange between Sanders and Mazurek, with Matthew Lux playing counterpoint electric bass as Granado’s synths create dazzling aurora coloratura. Drummer Chad Taylor’s emphatic swing uptempo on a cushion of thrumming bass signals a transition to the title movement, briefly taking joint lead with Takara’s cavaquinho. Processing renders this Brazilian ukulele wired, electric. Both maintain parallel threads of variation. A one-off twist of harmolodic melody, straight from Blood Ulmer’s Music Revelation songbook, precedes the first full-throated lead spot for Sanders, and Mazurek responds with an energised solo played out in a three-way with synths and percussion.

Sanders invests his tenor sax with an inimitably characteristic emotive sound. His rich, vocal tone can rise to reedy ululations, or drop to a sandpapered burr. Though his fiercest playing is surely behind him, his innate musicality, and his ability to trace and extrapolate melodic figures from the grain of any ensemble music are heard here to full effect.

“Blue Sparks from Her” begins with Mazurek’s processed cornet pealing out of an electro-acoustic haze. But a repeat figure from the cavaquinho invites pulsing bass and another buoyant rhythm with swing feel, and the piece consolidates as a limber, propulsive number with fine lead soloing and synths in electric piano mode. Mazurek and Sanders’ ravishing tonal blend is emphasised on the breakdown, illuminated by glinting mbira (thumb piano).

Chad Taylor’s mbira carries a transition into the gorgeously low-key “Asasumamehn”, shaded first by Sanders then Mazurek. This piece initially evokes Sander’s playing with Moroccan musicians, but becomes ever more abstract and evanescent before the gradual transition to “Pigeon”. Here, the rich electro-acoustic processing of Mazurek’s cornet tips the hat to former collaborator Bill Dixon. A subsequent percussion workout breaks into an uptempo groove on a dirty electronic organ riff, studded with sintir (Moroccan Gnawa)-like bass.

Both “Pigeon” and “Jagoda’s Dream” were first heard in very different versions on Sao Paulo Underground‘s Três Cabeças Loucuras (2011, Cuneiform Records). The latter reprises the present set’s predominantly limber, propulsive feel, with the cavaquinho playing off against clavinet-style keys at the next transition, this to the closing movement, where Mazurek’s solo flute again invokes Morocco.

“The Ghost Zoo” initially sets Sanders, at his most brittle, in a dreamlike, changeable cloud of electronics. Mazurek essays a vocal mantra before prompting an oddly modulated passage of free-form experimentation with a switch to cornet. The entropic abstraction, and an absence of rhythmic momentum at the close leaves the music open-ended, and the listener’s ears pricked and receptive.

This is a great set, and it’s good to have Sanders sounding so fine, in such simpatico company, a full half century into his creative evolution.

As for Mazurek, well it’s hard to keep up with Mazurek. In only the five years between two other recent sessions with notable guests—Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra (Thrill Jockey) in 2008 and Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra Featuring Roscoe Mitchell” (Rogue Art) in 2013—he generated at least fifteen other titles, notably Skull Sessions and Beija Flors Velho E Sujo, also reviewed here.

http://dalstonsound.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/pharoah-the-underground-spiral-mercury-rob-mazurek-octet-skull-sessions-sao-paulo-underground-beija-flors-velho-e-sujo/

Music and More review by Tim Niland

CF301Pharoah & The Underground – Spiral Mercury (CF 301)
This is another very inspired pairing of musicians – the legendary free-jazz tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and musicians from cornetist Rob Mazurak’s various Underground bands: Chad Taylor on drums, Guilherme Granado on synth, Matthew Lux on bass and Mauricio Takara on percussion. This was recorded live in Portugal as a seamless concert of effortlessly flowing music. Tracks include “Gna Toom” which begins in a mysterious and probing fashion, restrained with electronics hinting at the Miles Davis LP In a Silent Way. The music builds slowly and patiently into a more strident fashion where the horns play against subtle shades of electronics and percussion. Stabs of synthesizer open “Spiral Mercury” before pummeling drums and percussion and an excellent Sanders solo clears the field. Pharoah sounds wonderful, building his solo in a logical fashion and climaxing with his trademark overblown screams, then he hands things off to Mazurek for a spitfire solo of his own. “Blue Sparks From Her” is enveloped by a sense of uneasy calm with electronic sound manipulation using delay and laser like sound. The patters that are swirling coalesce to a supporting structure for saxophone and cornet over bubbling drums and percussion. This album worked very well, the musicians meshed perfectly and walked the high-wire of improvised music in a very confident manner. From cascading free improvisation, to moody sections of rumination, the music remains compelling.

http://jazzandblues.blogspot.pt/2014/09/pharoah-underground-spiral-mercury.html

Time Out review by José Carlos Fernandes

CF301Pharoah & The Underground – Spiral Mercury (CF 301)
***
Pharoah & The Undergound é a entidade resultante da associação do lendário saxofonista Pharoah Sanders a músicos dos projectos Chicago Undergorund e São Paulo Underground, liderados pelo cornetista Rob Mazurek, e o presente CD documenta o concerto do sexteto no Jazz em Agosto de 2013, no auditório ao ar livre da Fundação Gulbenkian.
As sete faixas fundem-se numa só e oscilam entre ambientes meditativos e grooves encantatórios – os melhores momentos ocorrem em “Blue Sparks From Her”, com um carrocel alucinado a conduzir a uma Twilight Zone tropical, e no fervilhante “Jagoda’s Dream”, mas durante boa parte do concerto Sanders parece pouco sintonizado com o grupo e o cavaquinho de Maurício Takara revela-se uma curiosidade de aplicação limitada.