New York born, but Denmark raised percussionist Marilyn Mazur sealed her spot in history during her four plus years of work in both the studio and on tour with Miles Davis. Additionally, she has worked with Wayne Shorter, Gil Evans, Elaine Elias, Dino Saluzzi, Marilyn Crispell and Marc Johnson, among others. Today she leads three bands: Future Song, a trio with Per Jorgensen and Anders Jormin, and the drums and voices ensemble Percussion Paradise. She is also the subject of a new DVD documentary, Marilyn Mazur: Queen of Percussion.
Elixir finds Mazur working solo and in duet with saxophonist and flutist Jan Garbarek. Their easy communication is most definitely a result of the 14 years she spent in the veteran saxophonist’s group. The 21 tracks are all, in her words, "improvisational and open." No better example of this can be found than on "Sheep Dream." The piece isn’t about rhythms as much as it is about a journey. Mazur’s lines seek out a conclusion rather than sit still in time. Anyone who understands contemporary percussion music will understand just how hard it is to capture this concept, but capture it brilliantly Mazur does.
The most appealing thing about this recording is the seamlessness between the pieces. While Garbarek only performs on roughly half the disc, when he is not performing, you don’t miss him. The reason is the extreme musicality Mazur displays on her solo numbers and the way they are all rounded off in a precisely artful manner.
The rhythmic and tonally melodic ideas she explores in her solo work is cleanly wrapped up by each tune’s end, leaving the path clear for the next excursion. For example, the title track "Elixir" ends with a sigh, leading perfectly into Garbarek’s plaintive lines in the following "Orientales." On the later, the two dance around each other before coming together at the end in a manner so embracing of each other’s lines it’s as if the later was intended all along to complete the thoughts presented in "Elixir."
The wide diversity of percussion timbres, articulative manners and dynamic variety greatly adds to the sonic firmament with the contrast from piece to piece being smooth. Throughout the overriding thought of coloristic exploration is handled in a most satisfying slant.
Garbarek, as always, is a master. His flute work on "Mountain Breath" is so lush it’s easy to forget this is Mazur’s disc and his lines on "Totem Dance" and "Spirit Of Sun" show the playful side of this master woodwindist that has been lacking in his recent recorded work. For those who think drum/percussion solos are boring and pointless no matter the context, this disc will frustrate, but for those looking for music that is exploratory and certainly fresh, disappointment will not reign.