Chicago Underground Duo consists of two very notable musicians: Rob Mazurek (also of Exploding Star Orchestra, Starlicker, Pulsar Quartet, Rob Mazurek Octet, São Paulo Underground) and Chad Taylor (also of Marc Ribot Trio, Side A, Digital Primitives), who formed the group in 1997. When asked to describe their work together, they suggested their music is “an organic mixture of African, Electronic, Coloristic, Jazz influenced life supporting systematic, non-systematic feeling from two humans trying ever to expand outward and inward for the people and ourselves.” The duo’s seventh album is called Locus, which was released by Northern Spy Records in 2014, and Chicago Underground Duo played the 2016 Guelph Jazz Festival this past September, which is when we caught up for this conversation. Here, we discuss why Rob thinks Guelph is friendly and full of free hamburgers, playing small cities with cool music scenes, Peterborough New Hampshire, Ajay Heble and Julie Hastings and the Guelph Jazz Festival, how some festivals go safe, when B.B. King would play at jazz festivals, open-ended and creative music, opening for Stereolab, what indie-rock might mean these days, what 20 years ago was like for outsider musicians, social music networks, music marketing and music media that can’t figure out story angles, jazz and intellectualism, the origins of jazz as a process, the relationship between niche and big budget, general audience festivals, Esmerine, competition and cultural cores, the future of the Guelph Jazz Festival, underground culture will always thrive, Mike Reed in Chicago who founded the Pitchfork Music Festival, Rob’s fascination with the Underground, when 24 year-old Rob encountered 16 year-old Chad, Chad’s history with classical guitar playing, how both attended jazz school in Chicago, Henry Threadgill, Steve McCall, Fred Hopkins, and Air, a personal meltdown at a recital, jazz and authority and parameters and freedom and improvisation, trouble with a lower case ‘t,’ playing drums and hearing Marc Ribot play guitar, introducing electronics to CUD and musique concrete, Chad’s resistance, ‘no fear,’ samplers and modulators, the windy city, when Rob and Chad each left Chicago, gentrification and displacement, how Chicago was designed, poor communities have been pushed further out of the core of the city, the vilification of Chicago and its correspondence with the terms of President Barack Obama, when Tortoise discussed their experiences with gun violence on this show, living in Sao Paulo, the proliferation of fear in American mass media, the surreal U.S. election and its lingering impact, Bernie Sanders and the Clintons, Chad’s grandmother and declining wages, the Chicago Underground Duo record Locus, a Chicago London Underground record with Alexander Hawkins and John Edwards that’s coming out in January, the new São Paulo Underground record, Cantos Invisíveis, which is out now via Cuneiform Records, Rob’s new record with Emmett Kelly, Alien Flower Sutra that’s out now, the Chicago Underground Duo song “Yaa Yaa Kole,” and then we went underground.
Related links: northernspyrecords.com/artist/chicago-underground-duo vishkhanna.com