Stellar Pulsations (Delmark; 2012)
John Herndon (drums)
Angelica Sanchez (piano)
Matthew Lux (bass)
Rob Mazurek consistently shows that he is a multi-faceted thinker. Like fellow Chicagoan, Ken Vandermark, Mazurek leads various ensembles and his latest, Pulsar Quartet, just might be one of his best.
Consisting of members of his Exploding Star Orchestra, Mazurek sets out on a journey that contains his usual avant garde spirit but this time with pieces that are more lyrical in nature. Reflective more of a straight forward hard bop ethos than many of his previous outfits. Stellar Pulsations revolves around a number of themes related to space and time.
"Primitive Jupiter" opens the session with excitement and ferocity. Herndon and Sanchez shine with bright, brash chords and beats that cut along Mazurek's well placed kinetic notes. "Magic Saturn" goes in the opposite direction. A delightful ballad that highlights the ability for this quartet to shift gears from the fierce avant garde to emotionally effective song structures. Mazurek's tone felt like late period Miles Davis. Lux and Sanchez perform with a subtle grace that give the piece a light hue throughout the closing passages.
The European feel of "Spanish Venus" excels with an interesting balance of minimalist vision infused by tango motifs. Mazurek's sound is romantic. While the rest of the group portrays a more darker approach. All culminating in wonderful conversation of sound and imagery. "Folk Song Neptune" is another ballad circling around soft descriptions and tones. The quartet led by the exchanges of Sanchez and Mazurek here sounded reminiscent of Keith Jarrett's best quartet sessions.
With Stellar Pulsations, Rob Mazurek has again shown that he is one of the exciting, experimental and under appreciated composers in the American jazz scene. But he is quickly becoming one of my favourites. And the Pulsar Quartet have made of the best sessions this year that fans of both contemporary and free jazz can enjoy. Stellar Pulsations is superb!