Chicago Underground Duo | Hideout | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Chicago Underground Duo Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Sat., Feb. 20, 8:30 p.m. 2010

Boca Negra (Thrill Jockey), the Chicago Underground Duo's fifth album, is their richest, most diverse, and most daring yet. On previous efforts cornetist Rob Mazurek and drummer Chad Taylor have ranged along the spectrum linking free improvisation and postbop, augmenting their lush, spacey music with electronic effects and programmed bass lines, but they've never before unified the elements of their sound so completely. They recorded the new album last spring in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with producer Matthew Lux (who's played with Taylor and Mazurek, albeit not together, in contexts as varied as Isotope 217, Mandarin Movie, and Iron and Wine), and the way they press the recording studio into service as a musical instrument reminds me of the work Teo Macero did with Miles Davis. But though Boca Negra uses more overdubs and postproduction processing than any other Chicago Underground Duo record, in many ways it's also their most organic-sounding effort. Taylor creates a deep, thundering barrage, heavy on the low toms and kick drum, and simultaneously sustains a kaleidoscopic sizzle of cymbal tones; he sometimes switches to vibes or mbira, and on Ornette Coleman's "Broken Shadows" he pulls off an impressive feat, playing vibes with one hand and trap set with his other three limbs. Mazurek's abstract smears and snorts owe a debt of influence to his recent collaborator Bill Dixon, while his tart melodicism bears the mark of Don Cherry—and though both qualities have been part of his style for ages, he moves between them more fluidly and seamlessly than ever before. The album includes moments of introspective tenderness ("Quantum Eye"), minimalist gurgling ("Hermeto"), and celestial contemplation ("Roots and Shooting Stars"), and its ten pieces cohere into a warm, tactile, three-dimensional whole. —Peter Margasak

Price: $10

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