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October 10, 2013

Chicago Underground Quartet

 Welcome by Chicago Underground Quartet on Grooveshark

I only recently discovered this album this year and it has been in regular rotation for me. I am only somewhat familiar with the musings of Rob Mazurek and Chad Taylor's successful Chicago Underground Duo and Trio with Noel Kupersmith, but once I learned Tortoise guitarist, Jeff Parker, is a long time collaborator with Chicago Underground I was happy to stumble across this CD. 

Chicago Underground Quartet is a near flawless listen which is partially owed to its stylized production. With a nice amplifier and good set of speakers you're treated with lush low ends complimented by bright highs, and the warmth of acoustic meets electric happenings in between. This is particularly observed in Four in the Evening where a simple theme is tooled between Kupersmith's bass and Mazurek on cornet. It's a short spacey piece that leads right into my favorite track, A Re-occurring Dream. Another minimalist themed composition that highlights licks over a simple blues line. For me, I can't help but think of "Audrey's Dance" from Twin Peaks.

Those two slow paced tracks are the perfect setup for the fast tempoed, free-form movement, Welcome. Which begins with a burst of cymbal splashes and an intriguing guitar melody. The melody is repetitively emphasized here before the formation of the Quartet's improvisation skills kick in.  It may seem abrasive at times but everything is weighted nicely here.

Total Recovery mixes it up with a tight groove that offers a platform for Parker and Mazurek. It's the perfect piece before the next improve cut, Sing, ChargeFixture. Where, different from Welcome, the spacing and silence is as much a part of the composition as the instruments being played. Nostalgia, the concluding track, sounds as if it would fit perfectly over an obscure Science Fiction movie with the galactic sounding moog. It's the perfect segue out the album's atmospheric setting. But even afterwards, there is a short Easter Egg for those who are patient enough.

The self-titled Chicago Underground Quartet is a strong album. I would imagine that anyone who is interested in the Chicago Underground Duo probably already owns it, but if you are fan of contemporary jazz and experimental music this is a must for your library. 

2001 - Thrill Jocky.
Noel Kupersmith - Bass; Rob Mazurek - Cornet, Electronics; Jeff Parker - Guitar; Chad Taylor - Percussion, Vibraphone.  

"... isn't it too dreamy?"