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Exploding Star Orchestra - Stars Have Shapes (Delmark, 2010)

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Led by cornet player and musical visionary Rob Mazurek, the Exploding Star Orchestra is a post modern big band that draws on great instrumentalists, found sound and electronics to create a soundscape like no other. Echoes of John Coltrane's Ascension and Sun Ra's long form experimental works like Atlantis and The Magic City are here, but the group creates a sound that is unique to their vision. The album opens with the extraordinary “Ascension Ghost Impression #2" with a jaunty whistle, quickly evolving into swirling cosmic music anchored by Josh Abrams strong bass playing. The music builds to a wild dreamscape that is abstract but colorful, billowing like a kaleidoscope. A majestic section of cornet and percussion build through the cacophony, making way for a mysterious section filled with processed sound and percussion. Funky and fast paced bass and drums enliven “ChromoRocker" with horns improvising over tasty vibes and percussion. Nicole Mitchell's light and dancing flute quickly flutters amongst the sounds. An open electronic soundstage is the foundation of “Three Blocks of Light" with cornet and flute featured amidst the electronic processing. A spare, ringing interlude gives a cosmic tinge to the proceedings, with a flute cry piercing the musical space. The music builds to haunting and spacious vibe with long toned horn and the reverent sound of bowed bass. “Impression #1" enters as a mysterious mid-tempo performance with cornet and vibes accenting. Saxophone and bowed bass bubble up but it is the shimmering vibes of Jason Adasiewicz that have the greatest impact. Saxophones echo and vibrate against the pulsing bass while Mazurek's cornet smears pigment across the musical sky. This was a very ambitious and exciting project that worked out quite well. The music is arranged in such a manner that the music is given a vibrant and visceral nature, oriented more toward the group as an organic whole rather than a collection of individuals. Fans of exploratory jazz and progressive rock should find a lot to enjoy on this fascinating album. Stars Have Shapes—amazon.com

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