Monday, March 26, 2012

Rob Mazurek's new Pulsar Quartet debuts starting tonight

Posted By on 03.26.12 at 04:45 PM

Angelica Sanchez of the Pulsar Quartet
  • Angelica Sanchez of the Pulsar Quartet
Tonight Rob Mazurek's newest ensemble, the Pulsar Quartet, kicks off a four-night residency at the Whistler. Starting tomorrow the group will record a new album with engineer and former Chicagoan Ken "Bundy" Brown. Pulsar includes drummer John Herndon (who plays in most of the cornetist's bands these days, among them Starlicker and Exploding Star Orchestra) and bassist Matthew Lux (who's also in ESO), but the special attraction is New York pianist Angelica Sanchez, one of the most stylistically mercurial figures in jazz and improvised music today.

For her latest recording, a 2011 solo effort called A Little House (Clean Feed), she wrote knotty pieces with brooding melodies and stormy harmonies; on a few she added toy-piano ornamentation or bracing inside-the-piano rumblings. Her music is dense yet subtle, full of quiet details that require patience to fully appreciate. In her liner notes for the album, fellow pianist and composer Carla Bley writes, "Some kinds of music are best listened to alone and without distractions. I would place this very personal solo piano album . . . in that category."

Sanchez is equally effective in ensemble settings, where the particulars of her playing are less micro—she led her own killer band at the Chicago Cultural Center in June 2009, a group that featured her husband, saxophonist Tony Malaby, as well as drummer Tom Rainey, bassist Drew Gress, and guitarist Marc Ducret. I'm curious to hear how she'll fit into Pulsar, which promises to make bruising music (at least based on Mazurek and Herndon's work in Starlicker), but given that she's done an extended stint playing piano in Iron and Wine, I'm betting she's got plenty of ways to adapt to foreign surroundings. Below you can listen to one of the lovely pieces from A Little House.

Angelica Sanchez, "Along the Edge"

photo: Peter Gannushkin / DOWNTOWNMUSIC.NET

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