I first saw Marilyn Mazur, the world-leading female percussionist perform live at the EFG London Jazz Festival last November (2014). Ms. Mazur is a Danish musical percussionist - a multi-award winner, who approaches her work in a unique way. During the live show, Marilyn was joined onstage by Nils Petter Molvaer, Jan Bang and Eivind Aarset – all equally exceptional musicians. I knew that Ms. Mazur was a Danish percussionist. But what to expect? Would she be like another Evelyn Glennie? Well – I was greatly surprised and impressed!
That night, Marilyn Mazur wove a spell with her own unique Scandinavian Spirit Cave group, both inside and out of her unique self-contained stage "house”, comprising – but not limited to - drums, bells, pots and dustbins.
As a woman, I find it interesting to now review Ms Mazur’s latest release, "Flamingo Sky” for Dave’s Place Music – this being my first "official” CD review.
I am immediately struck by the use of animal imagery in the titles – using descriptive words of flamingo, lambs, butterflies and snake. What awaits us – something pretty, or something more dangerous?
The full release is named after the first title track, "Flamingo Sky”. It opens with tinkling bells, guitar and vocals – indescript and jazzy – which for me, immediately conjures up an exact picture of flamingoes flying across a pink/orange sky.
The second track, "Rustle of the Lambs” sounds like stones being thrown into a bubbling cauldron of primeval soup. A rustle it is indeed, certainly not a "Silence of the Lambs”.
"The Butterflies” is the third track. This is constructed from jazzy duet vocals, overlaying a jazzy reggae-beat. Easy listening for a lazy, sunny, Sunday afternoon. I particularly liked the hard, instrumental middle section, preceding more freestyle jazz vocals, with a return to the lyrics at the end – and what a beautiful ending! I could picture the flight of the butterfly, weaving its way into the distant haze ...
"Ø” is a vowel in modern Danish, Faroese and Norwegian, as well as lending itself to other languages, the letter also can mean "island” in Danish. It is also the name of the fourth track, which introduces a brooding, wistful, surreal piano piece. Percussion is introduced, significantly complimenting the overall feel. Halfway through, a slight pause, and a dramatic change of feel and tone becomes apparent. Busy, tension is raised and piano notes tumble against rapid guitar and rapid beats. Vocals travel around vowels - Ø, and oh! – of course! The piece culminates in one long breath – rounded off by looped guitar and percussive elements. Very interesting.
"Like a Lover” is the next track. A seductive story, laid-back and blissful. It tells a story, "like the first snow”, and "like when the dream is over”, we are reminded of a clock ticking, with clock-like beats leading out of this song.
Track 6, "Skoven Som Kirke”, or "As the Forest Church”, has strong Scandinavian tones – sounding almost slightly Moorish, a drone set in Denmark or India or somewhere in Arabia. One cannot be entirely sure. The beat develops – it starts to funk – mediaeval? An ululation commonly used to express celebration. I want to dance! I consider this to be a chant – complete with finger cymbals – mesmerising.
Next is "Aftenlys”, translated as "Evening Light”. Some lovely percussion again, and the guitar playing reminds me of that of Bill Frisell. I am then transported back to some wonderful piano playing – then more vocals. Ah! How I wish I could understand! And yet this, for me, is often what holds a track together – the inquisitive nature of the piece.
Track 8 – "Strange Spell” – the title indicates the content of the track. A rhythmic beating of drums, guitar and chaotic, capricious vocals. Towards the end, a thundering of drums and a light ending, I definitely would not like to be on the receiving end of this strange spell!
The next track – 9, "Eletelephony” provides a rather continentally interesting play on words over a catchy 70’s style bass line – ending with the sound of an elephant trumpeting – very apt!
"Ufazil” is a composition of a West-African type of sound. I image flamingoes flying over a beach. This is followed by "New Deep”, a slow, meandering, timely start through notes played out rhythmically on a variety of instruments, which develops into another – probably African – inspired chant – very feminine and powerfully strong – even slightly disturbing.
Track 12 is the rather sad "Gone”. More tinkling piano, rather melancholic. I get it – a summer day, "floating away” – more visual imagery ensues – this time, at the end of a day.
In "Drum Dream”, drums pervade through a musically-created surreal electric forest. "Frisk Baglaens” (translated as "Fresh Reverse Directions”) provides an upbeat, lively, refreshing track that is quite inspirational and uplifting, following previous, more thoughtful tracks. Quite joyous and well-placed on the release.
"Gong Snake” provides resonating gongs, electro vibes, primeval gurgles, all complemented by high-pitched background tones. I particularly like the ending, where a series of chimes dissipate into the air ...
The final track, "Crystalize”, completes the release, and, I think, brings the album together very nicely. It literally combines the different elements of this release very well. It is one which, quite wonderfully, works – words (both English words and sounds) and music come together in one vast melting pot. The words, "so I rest in time” and a sigh, followed by final piano notes is what we last hear. Mazur provides an excellent finale – one that I consider she may have been greatly pleased with – quite rested and concluding this substantial body of work. I feel rested, rejuvenated and restored after hearing her excellent work.
The release is for doing nothing in particular, for watching the butterflies as they dance in the hedgerows. Perhaps the flight of the flamingo (or butterfly!) across continents and the sounds and music evoked is what binds this release together. An investment in this release should provide many years of enjoyable listening. A masterpiece by one of the world’s finest female musicians.