Sao Paulo Underground – Sauna: Um, Dois, Tres (Aesthetics)

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Sao Paulo Underground: the name a riff, of course, on Rob Mazurek’ Chicago Underground outfits but one appropriately pointing south. This time out the now Brazil-based composer and cornetist (also: pianist, “computerist,’ painter, multi-media artist, and Isotope 217 and Mandarin Movie member) partners with percussionist and electronic programmer Mauricio Takara (Hurtmold, M. Takara) who he befriended during a 2005 Brazil tour. The pair’ improvs are about as bold, explorative, and experimental as one might imagine, with Mazurek’ cornet babbling freely within a maelstrom of percussion flourishes, disembodied voices, and ambient computer stew.

Though the 50-minute set’s rooted in Sao Paulo (where it was recorded between August and November 2005), guests from Chicago and New York (The Eternals’ Wayne Montana and Damon Locks, Town & Country’ Josh Abrams, and Chicago Underground drummeister Chad Taylor) also appear, thickening the sonic gumbo even more. “Pombaral” rolls out with an elephantine swing, Mazurek’ at-times Cherry-esque horn leading a swaggering march through dense drum undergrowth. Mazurek and Takara work up hazy collisions between ambient noise and percussion during the first half of “Olhossss…” before jumpstarting the groove in the second with some pulsating electronic voodoo and muted horn chatter. Episodes of free jazz, dub, electronic experimentalism (e.g., the sliced’n’diced voice-edited outro), and African juju emerge throughout the trip, with the rambunctious percussion-horn fusion in the spirited “Afrihouse” offering perhaps the quintessential representation of the duo’ approach. In both sound and spirit, Sauna: Um, Dois, Tres at times recalls Live-Evil, a similarly challenging journey Miles undertook into the experimental jazz jungle some thirty-six (!) years ago. Props to Mazurek for following Mandarin Movie with a slightly more accessible yet still uncompromising collection.

Ron Schepper

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