Click here to [close]

Monday, April 3, 2023

Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra - Lightning Dreamers (International Anthem, 2023)

By Gary Chapin

For this eighth outing, Rob Mazurek brings us a trimmed down version of the ESO. Lightning Dreamers follows on from last year’s Dimensional Stardust, continuing on, joyfully, as they began. The album opens with Craig Taborn’s and Angelica Sanchez laying out a wurlitzer and synth ground over a simultaneously tight and laid back Gerald Cleaver’s drums. These opening moments draw you in immediately. You are on that street. In that groove.

This first piece tracks a meanderingly intense journey through the beat, with Jeff Parker’s guitar being our protagonist, and Damon Lock’s words being the paint on the walls. Timbrally it evokes Bitch’s Brew and other pre-70s funk/fusion—those organ sounds!—while also being very of this moment. Almost 2/3rds through the track, Mazurek comes in with a scathing skittering trumpet solo. Mazurek is the composer, arranger, and impresario of this outfit, and he’s also a great autre instrumentalist.

The second piece also evokes Bitch’s Brew (or maybe In a Silent Way) in its ambiently trippy opening. A collage of electronics, trumpet, and found sound lead into another of Lock’s poems. Lock’s voice and text are equal partners in the ensemble, rather than a lead voice to be supported. The languid opening gains tension over the minutes as it gains complexity and layers, a symbol crash from Cleaver at around 3:20 signals that we’ve broken through the surface and are suddenly flying.

Shape Shifter” starts as a more conventional sounding jazzism, with a trumpet head leading into explorations. Parker brings his cleaner soloing sound, here. Eventually the “conventional” accretes words from Lock and counter-sounds from the ensemble, slowly shifting shape. The last two tracks, “Black River” and “White River,” work for me as a suite. Mazurek wrote this as an exploration of the confluence of these two rivers in Rio, an expressionistically programmatic sound-image of this beloved place.They are loud, chaotic, percussive, fecund, and vibrant pieces. The noise/improv within the structure is very pleasing. The band has a guided mutuality that I envy.


Richard said...

I just returned from the Big Ears music festival where I saw these folks play. It was a fantastic show.