Rob Mazurek – Mother Ode (Corbett Vs. Dempsey)
Rob Mazurek cornet, boxes, bells, flute, books, voice, maracas, electronics, apples, distortion: “and sun toward the safe journey of my dear mother to the next cosmic realm.”
In the light of R. Crumb’s comments on Mats Gustafsson’s Torturing the Saxophone, one wonders what Rob Mazurek’s mother might have made of Mother Ode, a dedication from her son. The album was recorded within months of her death, in a July 2013 concert performance at the Corbett vs. Dempsey gallery in Chicago.
Mazurek played this music on a range of implements which he selected from a box that was also incorporated into the work. At the culminaton of the performance, Mazurek held the box over his head, as John Corbett recalls: “shaking the remaining contents…until he could no longer hold his arms aloft. It was,” he says, “one of the most moving musical happenings that anyone at the gallery could remember.” Also: “Often, such potent live events don’t translate to a recording, but (here) the emotional impact of Mazurek’s dedication appear just as vividly.” Sadly, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, but an attentive listener can empathise, if so disposed.
There’s a touching simplicity to Mazurek’s process. Each of the album’s nine tracks document a short, self-contained performance. Collectively, they encompass a ritual of quiet, unhurried concentration that evokes a kind of liturgy. At times this might be the Quakers’ ‘liturgy of silence’: “The Breath of Life you Gave to Me”, played on cornet, comprises only simple phrases and silence; “Quiet the Thunder Bells” comprises two minutes of bell ringing, and a minute’s silence.
Of the remaining stations of the ritual: “Spark on the Horizon” and “You are the weaver of My Dreams” are measured, richly expressive solos played on cornet and flute respectively. “Toward New Light”, which comes between them, is simply a muffled rattling and scraping of objects, and though the title of “Green Leaf Tea / Morning Ritual / Don’t Forget to Breathe” might suggest an epic, it’s simply Mazurek playing shakers, more or less rhythmically.
Each piece so far has lasted just over three minutes. “Let Me Sing You Through to the Other Side” stretches to nearly six. Mazurek is back on cornet, and though by no means declamatory, this is the album’s most vigorously animated piece. “Toward Enlightenment” (6:57) initially reprises the obscure sound-sourcing of “Toward New Light”, with Mazurek employing his box of idiophones as shaker, but he breaks off part-way in to murmur a solemn, wordless incantation.
The final piece, “You were Born with the Sun in Your Eyes”, runs to 15:26. Mazurek begins on cornet, but a third of the way into an exploratory expression of yearning emotion he also triggers a densely textured shroud of electronic drone. As the drone unfolds and envelops a hitherto spartan soundscape, Mazurek’s cornet playing retreats into its former simplicity, and eventually withdraws into silence as the distortion plays out.
At the end of the performance, you can hear Mazurek’s laboured breathing, and a breathless “thank you all for listening” anticipates a warm wash of applause. And here, on only my second really attentive listening, having found my first so uninvolving, I find I’m unexpectedly moved by Mazurek’s thoughtful, expressively introspective music.
Buy Mother Ode direct from Corbett Vs. Dempsey.