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Marilyn Mazur’s Shamania: Marilyn Mazur’s Shamania (RareNoise)

A review of the debut album from the percussionist's new all-female 10-piece band

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Marilyn Mazur's Shamania
The cover of Marilyn Mazur’s Shamania

When she envisioned Shamania, Danish percussionist Marilyn Mazur thought of urkraft, a term from her native language that translates roughly as “primeval power” or “primitive force.” The group is made up of 10 women, all of whom are involved in the avant scene around Scandinavia. Mazur—who, among other achievements, was the only woman to play in Miles Davis’ group, during the ’80s—convened a similar group in 1978 with the Primi Band, an all-female performance outfit. She compares Shamania to a “tribal female gathering,” which draws on the urkraft and a rather ambitious musical vision.

Throughout the album, Mazur’s talents as a composer and arranger provide many nuances. The brass and saxophones often create a rich blend, complementing the foundation provided by the three percussionists (including Mazur) and drummer. Trumpeter Hildegunn Øiseth’s goat horn bridges the gap between European tradition and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. And Mazur’s “Behind Clouds” gives her a chance to showcase her whole arsenal of percussion.

At the same time, many of the album’s strongest moments seem like fragments rather than complete thoughts. Of the 16 tracks, none reach the six-minute mark, and most are significantly shorter than that. When Lotte Anker completes her fiery tenor saxophone solo in “Space Entry Dance,” it sounds like a mere pause in the action, but it’s actually the closing moment of the album, and a highly anticlimactic one. The omnipresent wordless vocals are a slippery slope as well. Some recall the cool aura of Lani Hall’s work with Brasil ’66, but the panting and babbling on the freer tracks just feels insipid.

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Originally Published