On a snowy night in January I had an opportunity to see Rob Mazurek’s newest band in an incredibly intimate setting at Monk’s Kaffee Pub in Dubuque, IA of all places. Starlicker is a trio made up of cornet player Mazurek, Jason Adasiewicz on vibes and John Herndon on drums. The trio played a dynamic set of improvised jazz punctuated by frenetic and muscular solos by each. I had my appetite whetted for their eventual release titled Double Demon, which is due out on 5/17 on seminal jazz and blues label Delmark.
Double Demon represents another title in Delmark’s recent re-entry into the world of vinyl– Mazurek’s last release with his band Exploding Star Orchestra (of which Adasiewicz and Herndon are also members) Stars Have Shapes was part of Delmark’s first two releases, so it’s clear that they want to take advantage of Mazurek’s following, who may know of him from his Thrill Jockey releases as Chicago Underground and Isotope 217.
It is said that for most people, the music that defines them tends to be based on the music that they listened to in their teens and twenties. I’m not immune to this either– when I talk about about bands I really like, it is framed with a reference of 80’s New Wave, Punk, and College Rock (U2, R.E.M., The Cure…). This is possible, in my opinion, because most bands in the Indie or Alternative space are really building on or working from the same language of melody and structure that was in place in that time.
For most pop and rock music anyway, nothing is ever really new under the sun– to paraphrase Ecclesiastes 1:9.
When I was first introduced to Chicago instrumental band Tortoise in 1998 I heard something that– for me– was wholly new. Tortoise’s influences were clearly the great film soundtrack music of the past, but also a mix of jazz and krautrock and electronic music. It was exciting to hear what I felt to be new music and in typical fashion I dove headlong into Tortoise and bands related to Tortoise.
The jumping-off points for related Tortoise projects are many. Every member of Tortoise has other solo and band projects and quite a few of them in common. But, it is through guitarist Jeff Parker that I started exploring the very rich history of Chicago’s improvisational and free jazz scene. I’m still very much a novice in this space, and I come to it with almost no frame of reference which is both frightening and exciting. I did not listen to jazz in my teens and twenties and it is not music that was played around the house, so it is music that I have had to explore on my own, building a path one stone at a time.
From the stone of Jeff Parker, my next steps were Isotope 217 and Chicago Underground— both bands with cornetist Rob Mazurek. Rob is a very prolific artist whose catalog seems to grow by three or four releases every year. In 2009 Rob released sound is for seminal Chicago Jazz and Blues label Delmark. For sound is, Mazurek pulled together a quintet that was made up of his core collaborators: John Herndon of Tortoise, Matt Lux of Isotope 217, Josh Abrams of Town and Country, and Jason Adasiewicz of Loose Assembly. For me the album recalls a bit of the structured approach of Isotope 217 and some of the looser wanderings of Chicago Underground to great results as this is still an album I listen to with some frequency.
Starlicker is a new trio assembled by Mazurek which includes a subset of the Quintet– John Herndon on drums and Jason Adasiewicz on vibes. In November they did a quick run of dates in Spain, and are now in the middle of a quick tour of Midwestern shows that will wrap up on 1/26 at The Hideout in Chicago. They will take the band fresh from the tour to the studio where they will record sessions for an album that will likely come out on Delmark. This will be followed by a show on Friday, February 4th at Transistor.
Starlicker will be performing at Monk’s Kaffee Pub in Dubuque, IA (373 Bluff St., 563-585-0919) tomorrow night (Tuesday, January 18th). There is no cover and starts at 9PM, and it is suggested that you get there early to be guaranteed a spot.
Here is some video shot of Starlicker from their November 11, 2010 appearance at Teatro Caja Blanca, Malaga Spain.
Starlicker Tourdates (from robmazurek.com)
Saturday January 15th at 8:00pm -1:00am
Al’s Loft Society, 119 Calhoun St. Cincinnati Ohio
Sunday January 16th at 10pm-1am
The Hungry Brain, Chicago
Tuesday January 18th, 9p.m.
Monk’s Kaffee Pub, Dubuque
Thursday January 20th, 8:30pm
441 East Lincoln Avenue
Milwaukee, WI, US
Friday and Saturday January 21 and 22, 9pm – 1pm
2030 Park Ave.
Wednesday January 26th, 10 pm – 1pm
Friday February 4
5045 N. Clark St. Chicago 8pm – 11pm
Glancing through coronet player-slash-self-proclaimed “abstractivist” Rob Mazurek’s list of albums he either performed on, or led one gets the idea that he’s a pretty busy guy. Indeed, in 2008 alone he had three releases– one with the Exploding Star Orchestra and Bill Dixon on Thrill Jockey, one as part of his Sao Paulo Underground on Aesthetics and a solo release called Abstractions on Robert D’Arbrissel on AdLuna.
Rob has a number of releases on his second Chicago label home (the other being Thrill Jockey) the seminal Jazz and Blues label Delmark dating back to 1998’sPlayground as part of Chicago Underground Orchestra. On February 17th, Delmark will be releasing sound is (Delmark DE 586). Featuring 14 new compositions, sound is is the debut of Rob’s new quintet which includes John Herndon from Tortoise on drums, Josh Abrams of Town and Country on acoustic bass, Jason Adasiewicz from Loose Assembly on vibes and Rob’s bandmate in Isotope 217 Matthew Lux on bass.