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December 2000

The Chicago Underground Trio
Flamethrower
Delmark Records

The various combinations of the Chicago Underground-Duo, Trio, Orchestra and even the Isotope 217 offshoot-are etching its mark on the city's experimental music legacy as deeply as its Windy City ancestor, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Like fellow obsessively productive Second City experimental saxophonist Ken Vandermark, Chicago Underground leader-cornetist Rob Mazurek releases records as often as his various labels allow.

The Chicago Underground Trio’s Flamethrower is, with the addition of guitarist Jeff Parker, the group’s debut as a foursome—why it’s not the Underground Quartet, I dunno. Flamethrower demonstrates the Underground at its cerebral best: free-floating, quietly melodic, modal-based jazz. “Quail” features Parker playing crisp, quick single lines to form elliptical solos, though he later joins himself with noisy chordal smacks through overdubs, over a bubbly, delightfully awkward swing from the rhythm section of bassist Noel Kupersmith and drummer Chad Taylor. Mazurek and Parker both shine on “Woman in Motion”: over Kupersmith’s modal ostinato, Mazurek plays tightly constructed lines with his muted cornet that are rich in vibrato and pathos during his solos, while Parker plays his trademark clipped melodies during his spotlights. While his broad tone doesn't recall Miles Davis' pinched sound, Mazurek does share with the Prince of Darkness a fondness for sad melodies and electronics: Interludes using electronic tonalities separate some of Flamethrower's tunes.

Originally published in December 2000
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