Percussionist Chad Taylor and cornetist Rob Mazurek have been leading proponents of the underground music scene in Chicago for over a decade. They are joined here by bassist Jason Agemian for their first recording of all improvised music. The well-recorded sound can be played in stereo or 5.1 Surround; the video can be seen in regular video format or widescreen. I preferred the video in the widescreen version. The extra space contains more information, and the images, often in dual screen format, give us multiple views of the players. The DVD extras include some interesting video art pieces by Mazurek.
Taylor here, besides playing drum kit, is heard on vibraphone, marimba, mbira, and assorted percussion. Mazurek plays cornet, computer, moog, electric celeste, bamboo flute, and assorted percussion. The members of the Trio all have amazing chops. Taylor can be a sensitive and melodic drummer. Mazurek’s fluid command of the cornet creates a tremendous variety of moods and timbres. The three players are well-attuned to the knife’s edge presence-in-the-moment which is the main appeal of improvised music.
This is music in which the main expressive quality is texture. The trio achieves a tremendous variety in their moods and textures, generally changing from one to the next as they change instruments. When you change from the soft murmuring of mbira to a crashing wall of electronics, you truly experience a huge shift of texture. Their quiet textures, in particular, evoke a variety of strikingly odd and evocative moods.
The music adheres (like a lot of improv music) to an atonal idiom. It is of course much easier to play group improvisation outside of tonality, and this gives a great feeling of freedom to the work. The rhythm is also largely free and unmetered. However, in the last 20 minutes or so of the music, there are several sections which are metered and have a clear harmonic center, usually based on an ostinato vibraphone or synthesizer ostinato. Mazurek’s cornet playing here is the most expressive and emotional in the set. Because of the cornet’s melodic nature, he has a chance here to develop motifs and ideas at more length.
Raymond Salvatore Harmon’s visuals of splotchy patches of color, overlaid on top of multiple views of the musicians, add a sense of the changing textures of the music. The camera shots are well edited to give us the kinetic excitement of watching the musicians play their instruments. The mood of the visuals occasionally changes in sync with the mood of the music (most notably in a section dominated by electronic music), but, just as often, the rhythm and colors of the visuals change in a way that seems unrelated to the music, giving the strange feeling that Harmon is the odd man out; the only member of the team who isn’t listening closely to the musical flow. The visuals also have a strongly rhythmic quality; when this rhythm is at odds with the music, it can be disconcerting to watch.
If your musical tastes in improv include huge amounts of energy, great variety and specificity of texture, and players who whose ears and minds are in tune with each other, you will find tremendous pleasure in “Chronicle.”