Exploding Star Orchestra We Are All From Somewhere Else

Cornetist and multimedia artist Rob Mazurek formed his Exploding Star Orchestra as a way to showcase Chicago’s contemporary avant-garde sound. Originally commissioned to perform a single concert, Mazurek assembled a crew of experienced improvisers, including members of Tortoise and the Vandermark 5, and developed a grandiose concept involving a stingray, electric eels, a phoenix and the cyclical nature of the universe. The compositions continued to develop over multiple performances and were eventually recorded to tape by John McEntire at his Soma Studio. We Are All From Somewhere Else, the culmination of Mazurek’s ambitious vision, is comprised of three segments, each of which corresponds to a piece of the underlying narrative. The orchestra storms forward on "Sting Ray and the Beginning of Time,” developing a propulsive rhythmic core before fading considerably to improvise around actual recordings of electric eels from Brazil. Jim Baker’s gorgeous piano work is featured prominently on the short but emotionally moving interlude "Black Sun.” The final section, "Cosmic Tomes for Sleeping Lovers,” features an all-out improvisatory blast from the entire orchestra that sinks into the sea beneath waves of bass clarinet. While there are some stunning efforts from individual players (Nicole Mitchell on flute, Jeff Parker on guitar and Mazurek himself on cornet, to name a few), the compositions were built to showcase the collaborative skills of the group as a whole. Fortunately, the highbrow concept doesn’t detract from the quality of the music; the overall synergy keeps the Exploding Star Orchestra from imploding. (Thrill Jockey)