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June 2008

Marilyn Mazur
Elixir
ECM Records

Elixir is a soundtrack in search of a film. Percussionist Marilyn Mazur and saxophonist Jan Garbarek, who plays on roughly half the disc, create a world of soundscapes and moods within these 21 tunes—21 outlines, really, since the tunes are short, sparsely populated and barely developed. There’s a lot of introspection and meditation going on here, what with all the song titles like “Pathway,” “Joy Chant,” and “Spirit of Air.”

Mazur conceives percussion in a broader sense than most practitioners. Her panoply of percussive devices do more than keep rhythm—they create melody, harmony, color, texture and atmosphere. Her kit includes everything but the kitchen sink: kettle drums, gongs, marimba, glass percussion, bells, a vast array of cymbals and numerous unidentifiable things made of wood and metal. Who knows, maybe she does have a kitchen sink in there, or at least a ceramic basin and a few pieces of plumbing.

Garbarek blows soprano plaintively while Mazur bangs on the kettles and gong, ominously, on “Clear,” as if to signal that some sort of duel is about to get underway. “Dunun Song” is a giddy march, with Garbarek playing a vaguely Caribbean melody on tenor. Mazur plays what sounds like steel pan on “Joy Chant,” and her metal gadgets sound almost electronic on the ambient “Metal Dew.” Garbarek’s flute gives “Mountain Breath” a Native American feel. Mazur finally gets juiced on “Talking Wind,” using most of the available square inches on her drum kit, but then she turns in a meditative marimba solo on “The Siren in the Wall.” Elixir is a wide-reaching experience.

Originally published in June 2008
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