Rob Mazurek fused the creative impulse of Chicago's
post-free improvisers with the
dissonant digital soundscapes of post-rock.
Rob Mazurek (1966), after his beginnings in the vein of
hard bop documented on the mediocre Man Facing East (august 1994), Badlands (july 1995) and Green & Blue (july 1995),
led the Chicago Underground Orchestra that
is documented on the tentative Playground (january 1997), featuring for this occasion guitarist Jeff Parker, percussionist Chad Taylor, bassist Chris Lopes, and trombonist Sara Smith.
Mazurek formed the Chicago Underground Duo with percussionist Chad Taylor
12 Degrees Of Freedom (july 1997) and
the more ambitious Synesthesia (december 1999), with
the 12-minute Blue Sparks Form Her, and the Scent of Lightning.
The Chicago Underground Trio added bassist and vibraphonist
Noel Kupersmith for Possible Cube (may 1998), another impressive
sound abstraction containing the 14-minute Into Another You,
Flamethrower (march 2000) and
Slon (april 2003).
The trio also incorporated guitarist Jeff Parker to become the
Chicago Underground Quartet (december 2000 - Thrill Jockey, 2001).
During this period, thanks to the friendship with Parker,
Mazurek also played with post-rock bands
and Him, and especially the sextet
Isotope 217, which was a collaboration with bassist Matt Lux.
His solo albums were more experimental:
Amorphic Winged (2001),
Silver Spines (march 2002),
Thought Farming (2003),
Music For A Shattered Light Box And 7 Posters (2004),
the all-electronic Sweet And Vicious Like Frankenstein (2004),
Abstractions On Robert D'Arbrissel (2008).
Pared down to a duo again, Mazurek and Taylor continued their collaboration on
Axis And Alignment (september 2001), with
Two Concepts for the Storageof Light,
In Praise Of Shadows (august 2005 - Thrill Jockey, 2006), a timbral caulderon
on which the duo plays an arsenal of instruments, and
Boca Negra (may 2009 - Thrill Jockey, 2010).
The 14-piece Exploding Star Orchestra was Mazurek's most ambitious project,
a horn section with trombonist Jeb Bishop,
keyboardist Jim Baker,
and a rhythm section with
vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz and percussionist Mike Reed,
besides old Tortoise co-conspirators Jeff Parker, John McEntire and
Their lengthy suites are documented on
We Are All From Somewhere Else (Thrill Jockey, 2007), containing
two multi-part suites,
String Ray and the Beginningof Time and
Cosmic Tomes for Sleep Walking Lovers,
Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra (september 2007)
and Stars Have Shapes (june 2010), containing
Ascension Ghost Impression No 2 and Three Blocks of Light.
Sao Paulo Underground was a collaboration between Rob Mazurek and
brazilian percussionist Mauricio Takara (also on electronics)
Sauna (november 2005),
The Principle Of Intrusive Relationships (Aesthetics, 2008),
that added Brazilian keyboardist Guilherme Granado and Brazilian drummer Richard Ribeiro,
Tres Cabecas Loucuras (Cuneiform, 2011).
The latter includes much bombast
and gloomy digital soundscapes, but truly shines when
but the lively Carambola
the ethereal singsong Colibri emerge from the multi-textured chaos.
A new Chicago Underground Trio with new bassist Jason Ajemian debuted on
Chronicle (july 2006), containing the 28-minute Power.
The Rob Mazurek Quintet, featuring drummer John Herndon, bassists Matthew Lux and Josh Abrams, and vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, debuted on the more
conventional (by his standards) Sound Is (Delmark, 2009).
Chicago Odense Ensemble
was a project with
Jeff Parker (guitar), Tortoise's Dan Bitney and Brian Keigher (both on percussion), Matthew Lux (bass) and
Danish musicians Jonas Munk (guitar, electronics) and Jakob Skot (drums, percussion).
Tigersmilk (october 2001) is the trio of Mazurek, Dylan van der Schyff and Jason Roebke. Tigersmilk continued with
From The Bottle (november 2003) and Android Love Cry (october 2006).
Active Ingredients consists of Mazurek, Steve Swell (trombone), Jemeel Moondoc (alto sax), David Boykin (tenor sax), Tom Abbs (bass and percussion), Chad Taylor (drums) and Avreeayl Ra (percussion) on
Titration (july 2002).
Mandarin Movie (2005) featured Steve Swell (trombone), Alan Licht (guitar), Matthew Lux (bass guitar), Jason Ajemian (bass) and Frank Rosaly (drums).
Mazurek, John Herndon (drums) and Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone),
started with Double Demon (march 2011).
Chicago Underground Duo's Age Of Energy (june 2011 - Northern Spy, 2012),
mostly recorded live, wed digital instruments with traditional ethnic instruments.
Rob Mazurek's Pulsar Quartet's
(Delmark, 2012) featured Angelica Sanchez on piano, Matthew
Lux on bass and John Herndon on drums, basically
a subset of the Exploding Star Orchestra.
The Rob Mazurek Septet,
featuring John Herndon (drums), Jason
Adasiewicz (vibraphone), Nicole Mitchell (flute), Guilherme Granado
(keyboards and electronics), Carlos Issa (guitar and electronics),
Mauricio Takara (percussion and cavaquinhoe) and Thomas Rohrer (C melody
saxophone and rabeca), debuted with
Skull Sessions (november 2011).
The Space Between (Delmark, 2013) documents a multimedia project between Rob Mazurek's Exploding Star Acoustic Ensemble and video artist and choreographer Marianne M Kim premiered in february 2013.
Rob Mazurek's Sao Paulo Underground
(Mazurek on cornet, harmonium and electronics, Granado on
keyboards and Takara on percussion and electronics)
returned with their fourth album,
Beija Flors Velho E Sujo
(september 2012 - Cuneiform, 2013).
The live electronic
Matter Anti-Matter (2009)
was credited to the
Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra with
Roscoe Mitchell (alto and soprano saxes), Nicole Mitchell
(flutes and voice), Matana Roberts (alto sax), Matt Bauder (tenor sax),
Steve Swell (trombone), Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone and tubular bells),
Kevin Dumm (electronics), Matthew Lux (bass guitar), Mauricio Takara
(cavaquino and percussions), Guilherme Granado (samplers and marimba),
the drums trio of John Herndon, Mike Reed and Chad Taylor, and vocalist
The Chicago Underground Duo returned with Locus (Northern Spy, 2014) that
experimented with electronic sounds.
A quartet comprising Jason Ajemian (bass,
electronics), Tony Malaby (tenor sax), Rob Mazurek (cornet,
electronics) and Chad Taylor (drums) recorded
A Way A Land Of Life (december 2006).
Dedicated to his late mother, Mother Ode
was recorded live and it includes
the closing 15-minute You Were Born With Sun In
Rob Mazurek joined forces with
tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders
for Chicago/Sao Paulo Underground's
Spiral Mercury (august 2013)
and Primative Jupiter (august 2013),
featuring Chad Taylor (drums, mbira),
Matthew Lux (bass), Mauricio Takara (cavaquinho, percussion &
electronics) and Guilherme Granado (synths, samplers, percussion,
Rob Mazurek's Sao Paulo Underground, expanded to a sextet, returned with
the four extended electroacoustic pieces of
Return The Tides (may 2013), featuring
Mauricio Takara (drums, cavaquinho and voice), Guilherme Granado
(keyboards, synths, sampler and voice), Thomas Rohrer (rabeca,
electronics, soprano sax and voice), Rogerio Martins (percussion and
voice) and Rodrigo Brandao (voice). The album is de facto a requiem for
Mazurek's mother, who died in 2013.
Mazurek fronted a trio with
Matt Lux (electric bass) and Mikel Patrick Avery (organ) on
Alternate Moon Cycles (december 2012) that contains
the 16-minute Waxing Crescent #1 and the 15-minute
Waxing Crescent #2.
The Exploding Star Orchestra (with Nicole Mitchell on flutes and vocals, Angelica Sanchez on piano, Jeff Parker on guitar, Matthew Bauder on reeds, Matthew Lux on bass guitar, Guillerme Granado on electronics, Mauricio Takara on cavaquinho and Damon Locks on vocals) recorded the live double-disc Galactic Parables: Volume 1 (august 2013) containing the 20-minute Free Agents Of Sound and the 22-minute Make Way To The City.
The cassette Vortice O The Faun (Astral Spirits, 2015) documents an
Some Jellyfish Live For Ever (may 2013) documents another
collaboration with Jeff Parker.
Alien Flower Sutra (2016) documents a sextet
with Emmett Kelly (voice, guitar), Thomas Rohrer (rabeca),
Guilherme Granado (synth, sampler, electronics), Carlos Issa (guitar,
electronics) and Brittany Mazurek (voice) performing
the 22-minute electronic suite Overture Towards the Beginning of the End of Time (composed in 2013).
Sao Paulo Underground's Cantos Invisiveis (Cuneiform, 2016)
includes the 14-minute
Estrada Para o Oeste and the 16-minute
Falling Down From the Sky Like Some Damned Ghost.
The Chicago London Underground augmented the Chicago Underground Duo
(Chad Taylor on drums, mbira and electronics)
with British improvisors Alexander Hawkins (piano) and John Edwards (bass) for A Night Walking Through Mirrors (april 2016) containing
A Night Spent Walking Through Mirrors (24:17),
Something Must Happen (15:22),
Boss Redux (21:31) and
Mysteries of Emanating Light (18:43).
Chants And Corners (june 2016) featured Mazurek on modular synth, sampler, cornet & piano, accompanied by Mauricio Takara (drums), Guilherme Granado (keyboards, synth, sampler & electronics), Thomas Rohrer (rabeca, flutes, soprano sax & electronics) and Philip Somervell (piano and prepared piano).
Blind Curves And Box Canyons (january 2016) was a collaboration with
Thollem McDonas (modified electric piano & analog effects).
Astral Cube (El Paraiso, 2017) documents a new project, Black Cube Marriage.
Four Views Of A Three Sided Garden/Shore To Shore (may 2014),
containing two lenghty tracks were (Fourt View and Second Side),
features Mwata Bowden on clarinet, baritone sax & didgeridoo, Julian Desprez on electric guitar, Matt Lux on electric bass and Mathieu Sourisseasu on acoustic bass, plus guest Douglas Ewart on English horn & bamboo piccolo.
The solo album Rome (november 2014), performed on cornet, piano, prepared piano and electronics, contains the 17:30-minute Sweet Life In Disrepair.
Chimeric Stoned Horn (Astral Spirits, 2017) is a solo album
performed on piccolo trumpet, modular synths, samplers, voice, bells, and billed
as a follow-up to
Vortice Of The Faun.
Chimeric Stoned Horn (june 2017) was a solo album for electronics, voice, bells, synthesizer, sampler and piccolo trumpet.
The Third Coast Ensemble debuted with
the live album Wrecks (october 2015) played by a 15-member unit:
Christophe Rocher (clarinets), Steve Berry (trombone), Christofer Bjurstrom (piano), Frederic B. Briet (double bass), Philippe Champion (trumpet), Lou Mallozzi and Vincent Raude (electronics), Nicole Mitchell (flutes), Jeff Parker (guitar), Irvin Pierce (tenor sax), Nicolas Pointard and Avreeayl Ra (drums), Nicolas Peoc’h (alto and soprano saxes), Tomeka Reid (cello) and Mazz Swift (violin).
Mazurek played on
Porta Palace Collective's third album
Stone (october 2016).
Star Splitter (march 2018) documents a collaboration between Rob Mazurek (piccolo trumpet, electronics, objects & voice) and Gabriele Mitelli (cornet, soprano sax, alto flugelhorn, electronics, objects).
Desert Encrypts Vol 1 (august 2018) documents a live performance with
Mazurek on piccolo trumpet and electronics, Kris Davis (piano), Chad Taylor (drums), Ingebrigt Haker Flaten (bass) and Lynn Xu (voice).
Psychotropic Electric Eel Dreams IV (march 2017) contains two lengthy solo improvisations for synthesizer and samples, based on sounds generated by electric eels.
Love Waves Ecstatic Charge (recorded between 2017 and 2018)
collects music for modular synth and computer,
notably the 15-minute Ecstatic.
The Underflow (may 2019) was the trio of
saxophonist Mats Gustafsson,
trumpet player Rob Mazurek and guitarist
David Grubbs (Squirrel Bait,
Gastr Del Sol).
The Chicago Underground Quartet returned after almost 20 years with Good Days (july 2019):
Josh Johnson on synth bass, organ and piano, Jeff Parker on electric guitar and Chad Taylor as usual on drums.
The Exploding Star Orchestra's
Dimensional Stardust (recorded between august 2019 and march 2020),
featured Damon Locks and Macie Stewart (vocals), Nicole Mitchell (flute), Tomeka Reid (cello), Joel Ross (vibraphone), Jeff Parker (guitar), Jaimie Branch (trumpet), Angelica Sanchez (piano), Ingebrigt Haker Flaten (bass), and the percussion trio of Chad Taylor, Mikel Patrick Avery and John Herndon.
The Underflow, the trio of Mats Gustafsson, Rob Mazurek and guitarist David Grubbs, is documented on Live at the Underflow Record Store and Art Gallery (may 2019) and the subsequent live Instant Opaque Evening (january 2020).