Rome is the rare Rob Mazurek album that you could play in the summer with your windows open. It is less likely than most of his music to drive your neighbors to homicidal rage. Mazurek usually plays in small, deafening ensembles. On Rome, his ensemble is the smallest possible: himself. Alone with his cornet, a piano and electronics, he is feeling mellow. Relatively.
Three of the four tracks are inspired by artists in other media. The first, “Twombly at New Church,” for painter and sculptor Cy Twombly, has flaring, piercing cornet outbreaks, made dramatic by the dark silences between them. Precisely because you never know what Mazurek will do next, it is thrilling when he discovers lines of arcane beauty. The second is “Gazing Through Walls (Two Paintings by Caravaggio).” It is primarily a piano piece, augmented with subtle, selective electronics. (“Subtle” and “selective” are adjectives not often applied to Mazurek.) He does not exactly “play” the piano; he uses it to paint sonic color and mood. “Gazing Through Walls” is an intriguingly mysterious atmosphere.
The third track, “King of Rome (for Pino Saulo),” is about an Italian producer and concert promoter. It makes you think of another Italian music presenter, Enzo Capua, of the Umbria Jazz Festival organization. Enzo is famous for his only partially tongue-in-cheek rules for jazz. One is “Keep your hands out of the piano.” For the last half of this 15-minute piece, Mazurek, pointlessly and perversely, plucks little repetitive figures on the piano strings. He should have listened to Enzo.
Finally, there is “Sweet Life in Disrepair (for Fellini).” It has Mazurek on his true instrument, the cornet, in a freely associative series of tantrums. The performance, credibly portraying disrepair, gets pretty crazy. On second thought, don’t play this track with the windows open.
Preview, buy or download songs from the album Rome by Rob Mazurek on iTunes.
Read Mike Shanley’s profile of Rob Mazurek from the October 2015 issue of JazzTimes.