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Friday, March 12, 2021

Rafał Mazur ‎– The Great Tone Has No Sound (Fundacja Słuchaj!, 2020)

 By Stef Gijssels

For the occasion of Polish acoustic bass guitar wizard Rafał Mazur's 20th anniversary in improvised music, the four CD box "The Great Tone Has No Sound" is released, showcasing the art of the musician in its various manifestations and musical approaches. 

The title of the album explains Mazur's musical philosophy, which is anchored in the Chinese Taoism: "In order to hear the Great Tone, we must transcend our habits, our ways of hearing. We must give up beliefs built on narrow imaginations and open our minds to a wider perspective. (...) The world opens to us when we transcend our own cognitive boundaries, and as the old martial arts saying goes: even the strongest blows are light as a feather. Then every meeting is creative, every action comes easily, whatever we do appears spontaneously and quickly, without plans or sketches, as in Chinese “one brushstroke” painting. We stick to the world and follow its changes. And everything is just simple". You can read the full text on the Bandcamp page below. The music on the album does represent this philosophy, being fully improvised, flowing naturally, whether in solo, duo or quintet. 

The first CD - "Beyond The Five Notes" - presents two twenty minute solo acoustic bass improvisation. Mazur is a real master on the instrument, starting with pizzi, demonstrating his unusual technical skills but then switching to his bowed playing, which dominates the entire second track. He was originally trained as a cellist, but he switched to acoustic bass guitar later, which is now custom-made. Apart from the other acoustic bass guitar virtuoso, Jonas Hellborg, I am not aware of too many musicians using the instrument. Its sound is something unique and Mazur shows us all its possible sonorities in his free improv. 

On the second CD - "The Strongest Blows Are Light As AFeather" - he is accompanied by Guillermo Gregorio, the Argentinian clarinet master for six improvised duets. The music is intimate, recorded with excellent quality, and the interaction is astonishing. Whether calm or agitated, adventurous or meditative, the music has an incredible lyricism, largely due to Gregorio's unpredictable bird-like flights, adding a wonderful contrast to Mazur's deep and warm tones, who once in a while increases the intensity to ensure the creative dynamics of the interplay. 

The third CD - "Water Flows From Above To Below" - presents four ten-minute improvisations with Artur Majewski on trumpet, a musician with whom the bassist has performed and released albums with over the past few years, including The Night Of The Swift and a trio with Agustí Fernández. The sound is heavier, with more gravitas than in the clarinet duets. The first track also has an uncanny sense of urgency, as if both players have a lot to convey in a too short period of time. Mazur's versatility on his acoustic bass guitar is nicely complemented by the timbral range of Majewski's trumpet, who shifts easily from crystal-clear tones to multiphonic growls. The music is intense and fiery. 

The fourth CD is titled "The wind creates great harmony”, and we get a quintet with Satoko Fujii on piano, Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, Guillermo Gregorio on clarinet, Ramon Lopez on drums, and of course Rafał Mazur on acoustic bass guitar. The expansion of the band leads to much denser music, a collective improvisation full of energy and respect. Every track is opened by one instrument to set the scene and the tone. Gradually the others join with wide open ears that are creative enough to move the piece forward collectively, and often massively. The Japanese-Polish-Spanish-Argentinian ensemble once again demonstrates that music truly is the universal language, and free improvisation even more so. And even the interaction between clarinet and trumpet - which is normally very precarious - actually works very well here. 

To quote Mazur again: "Movement is harmony, harmony is movement. Contrary to certain conceptions, harmony is not an ideal, perfectly balanced state of stillness, but a way of operating and existing in continuous transformation. Harmony is thus created in motion, and movement, like wind, creates great harmony. Stabilization, stagnation, and stasis lead to petrification and death, while movement and change are signs of life. And this is precisely what you can hear when you hear the Great Tone — not a single, solitary sound, nor many sounds at once, but rather constant, changing, varied, wide, all-encompassing, and undefined vibration. There’s no need to analyze it, let’s just join this stream of vibration and flow with it wherever it goes".

I agree, let's stop analysing. Join the music.

Listen and download from Bandcamp