Chicago Underground Duo – Synesthesia

From Chicago comes this vibrant recording from Chicago Underground Duo. Characterized by bursts of Rob Mazurek’s cornet catapulting off of a sinewy foundation of ‘found’ sounds and rhythms, this is at times dense, vertiginous jazz. Careening in a see-saw fashion from near mathematical explorations of the limits of ‘free’ jazz to billowing cornet fueled excursions along the sunlit alleys travelled by Miles Davis in his “cool jazz” years, Synesthesia can be read as a fine update of the jazz experiments of Ornette Coleman and his contemporaries in the 60’s. Indeed, except for the electronic undertones, much of this (especially the interplay between Chad Taylor’s percussion and Rob’s cornet) might fit right in on ‘The Shape of Jazz to Come’ (Coleman’s seminal Atlantic album). Mazurek seems to channel (very well) the jazz semantics elaborated by Don Cherry on Coleman’s Atlantic recordings. As a whole, though, Synesthesia possesses a voice all its own, managing to simultaneously reference both the electro-organic jazz language of Tortoise (who Mazurek appears with on TNT, their last full-length recording), and the peripatetic wanderings of 60’s experimentalists.
For instance, ‘Blue Sparks from Her and the Scent of Lightning’ chugs along, propelled on legs of sampled sounds while Rob’s muted horn preaches above the electronic undertow. The following song, ‘Threads on the Face,’ dispenses with the modernization entirely and emerges as a bare-bones exploration of raw percussion and jazz cornet – startling in its clarity. Not all of this is merely for the jazz intelligentsia however – there are many fine moments of pure cool-jazz bliss, with Mazurek’s sultry cornet intonations floating serenely above Taylor’s calculated vibraphone ramblings.
Though succumbing to over-intellectualization at times, Synesthesia broadens the horizons of the jazz lexicon. At times near visionary, at times wandering and unfocused, those interested in the shape of jazz to come should give Synesthesia a serious audition.