Album Review

Exploding Star Orchestra – “We Are All From Somewhere Else. ” – [Thrill Jockey Records]

Daryl Licht   10/25/2007   CD, Jazz

I???ll readily admit to being an aficionado of modern, Big Band Jazz projects, so I was intrigued by this debut from the Exploding Star Orchestra, a new project led by Chicago Underground???s, Rob Mazurek, which features an all-star cast of some of the Windy City???s finest improvisers.

While Jazz is certainly the point of departure for the group, other influences are also incorporated into the music on this CD. This album contains two suites, which are separated by the short piano interlude, ???Black Sun???.

The first suite, ???Sting Ray And The Beginning Of Time???, covers the album???s first 26 minutes in four parts. ???Part 1???, which, at nearly 12 minutes, is the lengthiest segment of this piece, kicks things off with driving Jazz groove that features excellent solos by Jeb Bishop (Vandermark 5) on trombone and Jeff Parker (Tortoise) on guitar. ???Part 3 (Psycho-Tropic Electric Eel Dream)???, is a fairly minimal (and lackluster) experimental electronics piece, which consumes nearly 8 minutes before making way for the smooth, spacey jazz of ???Part 4???, that concludes this suite.

The second suite, ???Cosmic Tomes For Sleepwalking Lovers???, covers the album???s final 5 tracks. It opens with a transcendant segment of the composed, but chaotic sounding, group improvisations that were so common on many of the recordings made by large Free Jazz ensembles in the 60???s. ???Part 2??? is repetitive piece that seems influenced by minimalist, modern composers, such as Steve Reich. ???Part 5??? closes out the CD with a pleasing, atmospheric piece (featuring Jason Adasiewicz on vibes!) that sounds like it could be from one of John Zorn???s Filmworks releases.

Like many projects with such an ambitious scope, this release does suffer from some inconsistency at times, but, overall, this is a pretty satisfying dose of contemporary large ensemble Jazz.

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