Trumpeter, composer and visual artist Rob Mazurek is fluent in the eclectic traditions of Chicago jazz’s left field. He released his first album in 1994, and his 70-plus recordings range from edgy free-form duos and orchestral works to soundscapes created with recordings of a tankful of electric eels.
This album, the seventh featuring his Exploding Star Orchestra, opens with orchestral strings playing with the rhythmic thrust of a Stravinsky or Bártok, followed by a supple pulse of ’50s third stream (a fusion of jazz and classical), and then an African lilt. The net is cast wide, but the strongest influence is the cosmic avant-gardism of the late pianist and composer Sun Ra.
Mazurek’s otherworldly vibe is achieved by voicings dominated by flute, vibes and strings, rather than Ra’s electronic keyboards and brass. But the odd juxtapositions and galactic mysticism remain — that opening track is called “Sun Core Tet (Parable 99)” — and strong soloists hit memorable highs.
“A Wrinkle In Time Sets Concentric Circles Reeling”, the album’s second track, confirms the broad-minded approach. Here, flautist Nicole Mitchell and vibraphonist Joel Ross interweave over layers of flute, brass and strings, and percussionists give the mechanistic futurism a Latin weave. Later, “Galaxy 1000” delivers a funky mix of Asiatic pentatonics and Native American chanting, and “The Careening Prism Within (Parable 43)” features sparse abstractions and a crescendo of Geoff Parker guitar.
Most compositions include somewhat portentous voiceovers that conjure ’50s B-movie sci-fi, though phrases like “crystalline disalignment” and “pixilated abstraction” could also be descriptions of the tightly arranged music which froths underneath.
The album ends with two of its strongest tracks. “Parable 3000” bubbles and boils over stirring strings and draws on the ensemble’s considerable solo strength. The orchestral panorama “Autumn Pleiades” reaches a peak and fades into electronica, ending with the line “could this be true, could this be you?” enunciated clearly by an unaccompanied voice.
‘Dimensional Stardust’ is released by International Anthem/Nonesuch Records