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Photograph: Paulo BorgiaSao Paulo Underground

São Paulo Underground at the Old Town School of Folk Music and Empty Bottle | Concert preview

Rob Mazurek follows his muse south of the Equator.


Chicago native Rob Mazurek has built his reputation around town by pushing the envelope, advancing his musical agenda via the ambitious Exploding Star Orchestra and, more recently, his Pulsar Quartet. However, there was a point when Mazurek opted for a change of scenery, and in 2000 he decamped for Brazil, eventually befriending members of the São Paulo scene’s post-rock torchbearer, Hurtmold. The resulting São Paulo Underground can be seen as something of a south-of-the-Equator analog to his Chicago Underground Duo (or any of CU’s many iterations), producing a couple of searching records. But it wasn’t until last year’s excellent Três Cabeças Loucuras that a true group aesthetic took hold, gliding Mazurek’s delay-laden yet dry cornet tones over kaleidoscopic electronics.

The irony is that by then Mazurek had moved back to Chicago, perhaps lending some immediacy to the recording sessions. Hypnotic album opener “Jagoda’s Dream” rides on a driving, genre-defying dialogue—not unlike the kind espoused in jazz-fusion but rarely this tastefully—while the flickering “Carambola” sets a bright, percussive tropical melody played on Mauricio Takara’s cavaquinho (a small four-stringed guitar) against throbbing synthetic sound washes.

A rare tour sees the combo making an Old Town School stop before heading to the Bottle for the first night of the venue’s annual “outsider sounds” showcase with Brit mag The Wire, Adventures in Modern Music. The latter seems like the perfect forum for Mazurek, to whom descriptors like jazz, rock and “world” are irrelevant.

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