Marilyn Mazur: Celestial Circle (ECM 2228)

Celestial Circle

Marilyn Mazur
Celestial Circle

Marilyn Mazur drums, percussion, voice
John Taylor piano
Josefine Cronholm voice
Anders Jormin double-bass
Recorded December 2010 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Under the guidance of percussionist Marilyn Mazur, Celestial Circle cinches a wealth of continental influences by resonances and rivers. The group is trio-plus, with pianist John Taylor and bassist Anders Jormin forming the core unit and Swedish jazz vocalist Josefine Cronholm pouring her magic at selective intervals. Of the latter, “Your Eyes” (with words by Cronholm and music by Taylor) and the Mazur original “Antilope Arabesque” feature straight-from-the-heart singing and cinematic atmospheres. Both paint acres of forest, through which Jormin dances and Mazur adds characteristic splashes as she plays among, around, and through her bandmates. Confirming the arboreal theme, “Among The Trees” (another Mazur original) imagines a landscape of swans and sunlight. Wordless vocals linger here and there, stretching canvas for Taylor’s brushwork in “Temple Chorus,” cradling the ritual punctuations of “Drumrite,” and scatting delicately across the propulsive “Kildevaeld.”

In addition to its sparkling variety, the music on Celestial Circle dives headlong into the subtle art of evocation. “Winterspell,” with words and music again by Mazur, casts its painterly nets via Taylor’s snowfall and Mazur’s icicles before Cronholm articulates a single word. Here the trio breaks free for a spell of its own before ending in sun-kissed freeze. Mazur sews the seams at every turn. Whether duetting with Taylor in “Secret Crystals” or with Jormin in the flowing “Oceanique,” or even doing nothing more than caressing a gong by her lonesome in “Transcending,” she wields every instrument like a palette, to which invites the listener to add any hues that may come.

(To hear samples of Celestial Circle, click here.)

Marilyn Mazur/Jan Garbarek: Elixir (ECM 1962)

Elixir

Elixir

Marilyn Mazur marimba, bowed vibraphone and waterphone, hang, bells, gongs, cymbals, magic drum, log drum, sheep bells, Indian cowbells, udu drum, various drums and metal utensils
Jan Garbarek tenor and soprano saxophones, flute
Recorded June 2005 at Sun Studio, Copenhagen
Engineer: Bjarne Hansen
Produced by Manfred Eicher

As resident percussionist of the Jan Garbarek Group for 14 years, Marilyn Mazur enlivened every path set before her with dynamism and panache. On Elixir, she delineates her own compass and invites Garbarek on a journey of organic play, thus yielding a composite sketchbook of improvised solos, duos, and multitracked collages.

Each of the album’s 21 tracks is an iceberg’s tip. Only the penultimate “Winter Wish” exceeds four minutes, and with it the waterline. This and other such evocative titles as “The Siren In The Well,” “Mountain Breath” (which sounds like an eagle dreaming of a whale), and “Bell-Painting” afford imaginings for the wayward listener fortunate to wander into these territories. The latter title is especially appropriate, for Mazur is very much a painter whose palette is her instrument. From a kit that spans the globe, she chooses only the most appropriate pigment for each image. Be it the splash of a Chinese gong (cf. “Creature Walk” and “Talking Wind”), the pulse of hand on taut skin (“Mother Drum”), or the resonant metals of “Pathway,” she reverse engineers gold into its base components and treats each as if it were just as precious. Her solos speak to the heart because they speak to the earth: the two are one in the same.

Her duets with Garbarek both open (“Clear”) and close (“Clear Recycle”) the program. The Norwegian saxophonist’s rasp brings out the light of Mazur’s subterranean designs and with it illuminates their innermost dances. Colors reveal themselves accordingly in the sheer variety of instruments. Whether by hang drum or waterphone, cymbals or flute, their groove magnifies the great within: foot to earth as soul to sky. Through them run the ley lines of the plains, singing and free. Like the track from which the album gets its name, they feed an incantation of which verses come and go like clouds, if only to remind us that the sky above never goes away, for that is where we will go when our bodies bend over in silence.

Marilyn Mazur’s Future Song: Small Labyrinths (ECM 1559)

Marilyn Mazur
Small Labyrinths

Aina Kemanis voice
Hans Ulrik saxophones
Nils Petter Molvær trumpet
Eivind Aarset guitar
Elvira Plenar piano, keyboards
Klavs Hovman basses
Audun Kleive drums
Marilyn Mazur percussion
Recorded August 1994 at Sun Studio, Copenhagen
Engineer: Bjarne Hansen
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Percussionist Marilyn Mazur, best known for keeping the beat with the Jan Garbarek Group, came into her own with Small Labyrinths, her first for ECM as frontwoman—in this case, of the Future Song project. With characteristic wit and commitment to seeing every gesture through, Mazur leads us on a trek of visions and fantasies. True to the dynamic nature of her art, she begins softly in “A World Of Gates,” caressing the periphery of her assembly and working her way to center with diligence. She blends into “Drum Tunnel,” clicking the tongues of her inner fire on the one hand, on the other adding a touch of icy whimsy via sleigh bells. In “The Electric Cave” a talk box hangs stalactites in code, while in the web of “The Dreamcatcher” we encounter the soothing voice of Aina Kemanis (in a different mode from her experiments with Barre Phillips), who gives fuzzy warmth to “Visions In The Wood” and prays for rain and thunder in “Castle Of Air.” Trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær adds backbone wherever he travels, shrouding the already supernal gamelan drone of “Back To Dreamfog Mountain” with a breath from below. After an interlude of “Creature Talk,” we stumble through the anthemic strains of “See There” into a “Valley Of Fragments.” This explosive aside casts us into an “Enchanted Place,” shattering windows into grains of sand, and those further into molecules, each indeed a small labyrinth harboring the promise of music. “The Holey” is where we end, lost in a book of cries and whispers, out of reach and out of time.

Small Labyrinths is no self-enclosed ritual, but rather a diary of open and spirited play. It seeks us out, asks us to stay, and hopes we may join in.

Yelena Eckemoff: FORGET-me-NOT

Yelena Eckemoff
FORGET-me-NOT

Yelena Eckemoff piano
Mats Eilertsen double-bass
Marilyn Mazur drums and percussion
Recorded August 17 & 18, 2011
STC Recording Studios, Copenhagen, Denmark
Engineer: Andreas Hviid
Mixed by Rich Breen, Burbank, CA
Produced by Yelena Eckemoff

Readers of between sound and space will, I hope, be familiar with Yelena Eckemoff, who has been skirting the ECM fringe for some time now in her working relationships with such artists as Peter Erskine and, most recently, Marilyn Mazur. The latter provides a crisp and delectable palette to the Russian-born pianist’s latest effort, FORGET-me-NOT, which also features Tord Gustavsen recruit Mats Eilertsen on bass. From the breathy clusters of “Resurrection of a Dream” it is clear that Eckemoff has written yet another distinct chapter in the storybook moods of her compositional development. Against a backdrop of twittering percussion and arco haunts she carries us through this slick opener with equal parts style and fortitude, riffing on the ether with her most unbound pianism yet. Mazur is splendid on cymbals amid a bevy of colorful kin, Eilertsen firm yet sensitive, soloing as if in memory of the lullaby that brought us here. Thus set, the album’s tone moves in shades through the child-like wonders of the title track to its densest dramas in “Welcome a New Day.” Along the way Eckemoff treats us to not a few surprises, of which the crumbling edifice of “Maybe” paints perhaps the most intriguing. The punctilious “Sand-Glass” further hones the set’s serrations and leaves us prepared to dissect the delightful little groove that is “Five” (in both title and number). Eckemoff’s classical roots come to the fore in “Schubert’s Code.” Making its timid entrance onto a stage draped with patterns of the nineteenth century, it nevertheless sparkles with clear and present reflections and showcases a real feel for detail. “Quasi Sonata,” on the other hand, rolls out the retro on a smaller scale and feels most like fleeting reminiscence. The pleasant dissonances sprinkled throughout “Seven” (in title but not in number) also bring us into the unexpected, a place where cascades and stepwise chains share a drink and a smile, while the more erratic “Trapped in Time” brings us into a swing to remember, replete with Mazur’s solid rim hits and spiraling energies.


(photo by Nicola Fasano)

FORGET-me-NOT is an album without borders, a gallery of animate snapshots that float on the wind. Its fluid transitions hang like a necklace from the neck of a mother who stares through the window of her past and finds a thousand songs to sing. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come for an artist who continues to add feathers to her wings with each new release.