Swirling Beats

Elixir (ECM)
Marilyn Mazur

By Martin Kasdan Jr.

It's been some two decades now, but I still clearly recall a Miles Davis concert in New Orleans during Jazzfest. It was memorable, for one reason, because Miles opened for hometown hero Wynton Marsalis.

Even more significantly, I remember it because it introduced me to the amazing percussionist Marilyn Mazur. She was like a dancing, drumming sprite, adding color, intensity and rhythmic counterpoints throughout the performance.

More recently, she has been working with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek. Mazur has just released her second album as a leader for ECM, titled Elixir. While Garbarek joins Mazur for approximately half the album and has co-writer credits for seven of the 21 pieces, this is clearly a showcase for Mazur's concepts.

The opening song "Clear" seems to invoke a sense of ritual, which is maintained throughout. "Pathway," which follows, is a slow and spacey piece and is one of several in which Mazur's work on gongs and cymbals highlights the gentler side of her percussive instruments.

Other pieces, such as the title track and "Mother Drum," find Mazur setting up deeply moving grooves on an assortment of drums. "Metal Dew" sounds like it could have been written for a scene in a science fiction movie. "Spirit of Air" and "Spirit of Sun" comprise a percussion/flute mini-suite. Given that there are 21 pieces, ranging from under a minute to a maximum of 4:10, a track-by-track rundown would serve no useful purpose. Indeed, it could detract from the joys of discovery as the album unfolds.

While this recording has jazz influences, it should not be approached as a "jazz album." Rather, it has elements of music which seem to be influenced by everything from African polyrhythms to Native American trance rhythms and Indian ragas. This is swirling, multidimensional music.

Fans of Max Roach's M'Boom! and Mickey Hart's various percussion ensembles will find common ground here and music fans with open ears will find much to enjoy in Mazur's textured sonic explorations.

Beat a path over to www.MarilynMazur.com for more.