Culture Watch: Starlicker’s ‘Double Demon’


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Starlicker, ‘Double Demon’ (Delmark)

Listening to this new trio featuring Chicago jazz musicians Rob Mazurek, John Herndon and Jason Adasiewicz, it’s hard not getting swept into a brief flash of late ‘90s nostalgia. Cornetist Mazurek and drummer Herndon faced off in the influential post-rock groups Tortoise and Isotope 217, and their crisp, counter-punching interplay is a warm reminder of days when instrumental music briefly captured the indie rock conversation.


Which isn’t to say this project is trading on past glories. Collaborating previously in Mazurek’s free-wheeling large ensemble the Exploding Star Orchestra, this trio sometimes feels like an extension of that project. Strongly featuring Herndon’s rabbity percussion and the fluid, insistent vibraphone of Adasiewicz, Starlicker’s compositions gain a nearly hypnotic drive as the pair lock in behind tracks such as ‘Vodou Cinque’ and ‘Andromeda.’ Mazurek’s bright cornet often acts as the melodic anchor, but he deftly trades the spotlight with the percussionists, each moving part setting aside traditional solos for forward-thinking interplay. Starlicker may have roots in the past, but it’s taking jazz higher today.


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-- Chris Barton