Saturday, October 27, 2012

CD Review: Rob Mazurek Pulsar Quartet - Stellar Pulsations

Rob Mazurek Pulsar Quartet
Stellar Pulsations

After the long spacey drones he created with the Exploding Star Orchesra and Chicago Underground Duo and the paired down trio attack of Starlicker, cornetist Rob Mazurek has pulled together another project with some longtime associates, and sometimes it almost feels like his interpretation of hard bop. Stellar Pulsations begins with a thumping one-chord vamp and before it's over, Mazurek has played two ballads with the Harmon mute in the bell, which naturally sounds a little like... that guy who made everyone swoon when he did it half a century ago.

Naturally, it's nothing so simple as Mazurek playing it safe. Also, some sections don't sound anything like straightahead at all too. "Spiritual Mars" flows freely with no set tempo. Drummer John Herndon and pianist Angela Sanchez make the music bob and weave while Matthew Lux's bass guitar begins takes the melody initially. He doesn't play a fretless bass either, so his sound is closer to Soft Machine's Hugh Hopper than someone like Skuli Sverrisson. When Mazurek joins in, he almost acts as a support player to Lux's lead, which makes a great alternative perspective on the roles of the band. It's more like a progressive rock band with cornet.

All the songs feature one of the planets in the title (Earth and not-really-a-planet Pluto are omitted). "Spanish Venus" has some delicate exchanges between Mazurek and Sanchez while the rhythm section repeats an ostinato that sounds like a close cousin to a clave. "Primitive Jupiter" is the opening boppish groove which Lux holds down while everyone, including the propulsive Herndon takes off with it. The drummer actually gets many opportunities to lift off, which makes this whole set stay exciting the whole time. Mazurek as usual shows a lot of melodic depth whether he's doing some Cherry-esque runs on "Twister Uranus" or going for the calmer moments in the ballads.

Longtime followers of the cornetist will eat this up, but any newcomes unsure where to start with Mazurek's diverse catalog are encouraged to begin here as well.

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