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Exploring the cosmos

Exploding Star Orchestra - Stars Have Shapes
(Delmark Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 26, 2010
Exploding Star Orchestra

Review by Brad Walseth

Rob Mazurek's Exploding Star Orchestra continues to explore the cosmos on their new Delmark release - Stars Have Shapes. The 20:14 opening track "Ascension Ghost Impression" presents a whirling mass of sound that builds to a climax about halfway through before truning into a lovely 1930's orchestral interlude that disintegrates into the chaos - not unlike finding a random radio signal while circling a black hole. The 14-piece orchestra includes Nicole Mitchell on flute, Greg Ward on alto sax, Mike Reed and John Hearndon on drums and Jason Adasiewicz on vibes, along with Jeb Bishop on trombone, Jason Stein on bass clarinet, Carrie Biolo on gongs and percussion, Jeff Kowalski on piano, Matt Bauder on reeds and Matthew Lux and Josh Abrams on bass guitar and acoustic bass respectively. On top of all these various sounds, Mazurek adds his cornet (often effected and multi-tracked) and a multitude of "electro-acoustic constructions" from Brazilian rain to the humming of electric eels. Lest anyone think this is only of the floating world, the band gets almost funky on "ChromoRocker" - with nice unison work from Mitchell and Adasiewicz.

The mysterious "Three Blocks of Light" is a lengthy and relatively calm and meditative droning piece with lots of nice interplay and sonic surprises, while the album-ending "Impression #1" offers more conventional movement. Dedicated to the memory of the late Fred Anderson and Bill Dixon, this release will please fans of Muzurek's previous work while also engaging jazz fans looking for something different.

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