Half Notes: Chicago Underground Duo – Boca Negra (2010)

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As delectable as Stars Have Shapes by the Exploding Star Orchestra has been, I still can’t forget Rob Mazurek’s other 2010 project, Boca Negra, performed by only him and percussionist, vibrist and mbira player Chad Taylor. Together, they make up the Chicago Underground Duo, which you can think of as a microscopic version of the Exploding Star Orchestra. This is a great outing for the Duo, their fifth one since spinning off of the Chicago Underground Orchestra in the late 1990s. It’s spacey, spacious, and alternately jagged and milky. Both use electronics, but like other Manzurek joints, they’re used to accent moods, not create them. Manzurek knows when to lay low (“Left Hand Of Darkness”) or let ‘er rip (“Spy On The Floor”), and Taylor is the perfect partner, a drummer with great range and an ace groover, who can create sonic brushstrokes just as effectively with the vibes and the mbira as either can with the electronics. The lone cover, Ornette Coleman’s “Broken Shadows” is perhaps the highlight, played with more mystery and overlapping ideas than perhaps even the composer could have imagined. For a whack jazz record that uses a lot of strange noises and unconventional concepts, Boca Negra is also somehow accessible, too. One of the better releases to come out of Chicago’s thriving experimental scene all year.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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