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Chicago Underground Duo - In Praise Of Shadows

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Artist: Chicago Underground Duo

Album: In Praise Of Shadows

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Feb. 13, 2006

In Praise Of Shadows is the ninth album that Rob Mazurek (cornet, keyboards, electronics) and Chad Taylor (drums, vibraphone, other percussion) have made together in the past ten years, and their fourth as a duo. Some things have changed in that time; Mazurek has discarded his former guise as a hard bop horn player, and both men have moved away from Chicago (Mazurek's in Brazil, Taylor is in New York). More importantly, they've had a lot of time to define, refine and retool their working methods. The music's language, originally a two-sided coin of Don Cherry-steeped free jazz excursions and minimalist-inspired compositions, has been filtered through various genre explorations and the input of other players. Mazurek now uses electronics both to modify his horn and to generate discrete streams of sound.

“Pangea," with its massive slabs of barely differentiated sound, and the ring-modulated sound-bursts of "The Light Between" would have been unthinkable on their first couple records. And Taylor, always a fine and responsive player, seems like more of an equal partner in shaping the music. For example, his inspired blend of gamelan clatter and dubby heartbeats on "Funeral of Dreams" is no mere percussive backdrop - Mazurek's horn bleats and synth bleeps don't so much solo over them as furnish lighting effects that reveal the logic and textural variety of Taylor's rhythmic matrix.

Still, there are tunes on "Shadows" that, beefier recording quality aside, would have sounded at home on the first Duo album 12° Of Freedom. The new track "Cities Without Citadels," with its strangled horn cries and rolling cadences, could sit quite comfortably next to the similarly appointed "The Pursued," which was recorded nine years ago. Thus In Praise Of Shadows works not only as a solid effort on its own, but as a rewarding recent chapter in an ongoing creative dialogue.

By Bill Meyer

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