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In marked contrast to the wide range of electro-acoustic compositional and improvisational possibilities inherent in his Exploding Star Orchestra large ensemble, Chicago cornetist Rob Mazurek chose an intimate, stripped-down setting for the Starlicker trio, which debuted with Double Demon on the Delmark label in 2011. Mazurek combined forces with two Exploding Star Orchestra members, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz and drummer John Herndon (also of Tortoise), for an entirely acoustic date drawing from avant-garde jazz, post-bop, and more. Starlicker's bass-less format forces the group members to upend and reinvent certain jazz trio traditions (particularly the soloist-accompanist roles between Mazurek and Adasiewicz), necessitating an unconventional approach to composing and arranging with parallels in New York trumpeter Dave Douglas' Tiny Bell Trio of the 1990s (without the Balkan influence and with altogether different atmospherics provided by Adasiewicz's vibes). The same year as Double Demon's release, Mazurek hauled Adasiewicz and Herndon (and Exploding Star Orchestra flutist Nicole Mitchell) down to his second home of São Paulo, Brazil to complete the lineup of the Rob Mazurek Octet -- described as a merger of Starlicker and São Paulo Underground -- and record the live album Skull Sessions, released by Cuneiform in 2013.
© Dave Lynch /TiVo
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