In the last few years cornetist Rob Mazurek has stretched impossibly far beyond the music with which he first made his name--and appropriately enough, for his latest and longest stretch, he's taken a new name. For most of the 90s, Mazurek was one of Chicago's most promising hard-bop blowers, recalling high flyers like Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard. His transformation, through the various groups under the Chicago Underground umbrella as well as Isotope 217, has been well documented in this publication and others; since 1997, he's gradually embraced a much wider sound world, borrowing liberally from numerous traditions and approaches while retaining jazz's immediacy. None of that work, however, prepared me for his new solo album, 99 Explosions, made under the name Orton Socket and released by Jim O'Rourke's Moikai imprint. In previous experiments, electronic sounds--from abstract laptop burbles to synthetic bass ostinatos to, less successfully, enhancements of his cornet playing--had their place amid the traditional instruments, but here Mazurek's put down his horn altogether. He's not jumping on the electronica bandwagon, exactly: 99 Explosions is not the usual mix of glitchy electronics, stale rhythmic loops, and woozy synth melodies. If anything, the sound Mazurek gets out of his primarily digital tools harks back to when compositions were painstakingly programmed on analog synthesizers: strands of spacey electronic bleeps ping-pong through the ether; squirrelly long tones pierce a milky haze. While Mazurek clearly appreciates sound for sound's sake, most of the pieces reveal a nicely convoluted compositional logic: in other words, they go somewhere, however indirectly. A few of the pieces eventually take on even more distinct shapes: "Ice Dint_s," a pure electronic collaboration with Mazurek's Isotope 217 mates John Herndon and Matt Lux, sounds like a skeletal version of one of that group's tunes, the melodic fragments suggesting the contours of a funk hook, while "Iron Wire," a collaboration with keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen, forces a simple synth arpeggio through a full wardrobe of colors. David Grubbs headlines. Wednesday, October 3, 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.