Chicago Underground was formed in 1995 by Rob Mazurek and Jeff Parker developing out of weekly sessions at Chicago’s famed Jazz venue The Green Mill. Their first use of the Chicago Underground moniker was as an Orchestra in 1998, featuring Chad Taylor, as well as one time Isotope 217 member Sara P. Smith. The next incarnation came as a Duo with Rob and Chad later that same year, and the Trio featuring Noel, Rob and Chad came in 1999.
Slon, is the Trio’s third release following Possible Cube (1999) and Flamethrower (2000) which came by way of Delmark Records. Slon features Rob Mazurek on cornet and laptop, Noel Kupersmith on bass and laptop, and Chad Taylor on drums. All the compositions on the record are originals written by Rob, Noel and Chad, and recorded in one day, mixed in one day and cut to tape in one day. The record, a mixture of acoustic, electronic, and electro-acoustic music, was recorded last fall after an extensive European tour and was engineered by Ken Brown (Directions in Music, Pullman, etc). Like many Jazz records which were crafted as reaction to civil and political injustices taking place in the world, Slon is an anti-war record. The war on Iraq started a couple of days into the tour and it had a profound influence on the group and their music.
The first song, "Protest" needs no introduction and gets right to the point. The song is quite an involved piece, because it is a composition of Rob Mazurek’s that combines two completely different songs in such a way to create one composition. "Slon" on the other hand is a beautifully conceived rhythmic computer piece by Noel with the melody provided by Mazurek’s muted cornet and bowed bass. "Kite" was written by Kupersmith on computer and then improvised over by the Trio. "Palermo", named for the city it was recorded and conceived in, is a more rhythmic computer construct by Rob. The track utilizes found sound from the fish market in Sicily. Throughout, the album is driven by Taylor’s remarkable percussion, Mazurek’s frenetic cornet, all the time held together by Kupersmith’s rich low end. The power of emotions that inspired the album combined with the inventive and highly skilled musicianship of the players makes this a remarkable statement.