Percussionist Marilyn Mazur spent fourteen years as a member of the Jan Garbarek Group bringing to the music her sense for colouration and atmospherics, as well as the kinetic energy that Garbarek once likened to the movement of the wind through trees - a persuasive, insistent and naturally dramatic force. She first worked with the Norwegian saxophonist in 1990 on “I Took Up The Runes” and was on hand for “Twelve Moons”, “Visible World” and “Rites” as well as hundreds of Garbarek Group concerts around the globe. In 2005, the two musicians lent their energies to the compositions of colleague Eberhard Weber for the bassist’s celebratory “Stages of A Long Journey” in 2005.
“Elixir” however marks the first time that Marilyn Mazur has herself set the stage for a collaboration with Garbarek, who appears on approximately half of the disc. In preparing for her first ECM leader date since “Small Labyrinths” (recorded 1994), Mazur weighed up her options. In her Danish homeland she plays in many contexts including, latterly, collaborations with orchestras. For the new recording, she decided to work the opposite end of the scale: “I wanted to record something improvisational and open, based on my instruments themselves and to see what would happen when I collaborated with Manfred Eicher. So one could say that this recording is ‘microcosmic’, with each instrument allowed to speak in its own voice.” Marilyn’s percussion “kit” for “Elixir” includes instruments from every continent: marimba, bowed vibraphone and waterphone, hang, bells, gongs, cymbals, magic drum, log drum, sheep bells, Indian cowbells, udu drum, various drums and metal-utensils...
After being encouraged and coaxed to ‘speak’ alone, Mazur brought her instruments into dialogues with Garbarek. “It felt great. We know each other so well, and with the outer structural framework gone we were able just to play freely together.” A wind instrument and a drum - one of the oldest of all musical combinations, employed here with great sensitivity by the two players. The music flowed, with apparent effortlessness, in a session channelled into a charming and touching programme. Mazur once said of her own music that it is not intended to be “polished and finished”, but more like “a living organism. It represents a wide dynamic spectrum, explores many emotions.” In these improvisations she continually triggers new responses from Garbarek: yearning melodies, joyful dances, and meditations.
A new DVD, “Marilyn Mazur: Queen of Percussion”, released by the Danish Film Institute, includes some footage from the Copenhagen recording of “Elixir”; in the film Mazur reflects on her affinity for jazz of the North. “There’s always been something special about Norwegian musicians... I had a curiosity, as someone who has been able to cultivate my own musical language and find my own point of expression that somehow fits with all the space that Norwegians have around them, and which has allowed them to be individualists.”
Mazur is, of course, recognised world-wide as a uniquely innovative percussionist, her international reputation sealed by her association with Miles Davis, with whom she played for almost five years. She appears on his albums “Aura” and “Live Around The World”. She also spent a year on the road with the group of Wayne Shorter, and played and recorded with Gil Evans. The long list of musicians with whom she has worked includes Bobo Stenson, John Tchicai, Nils Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Jon Balke (ECM album, “Further”), Palle Mikkelborg, Dino Saluzzi, Irene Schweizer, Peter Kowald, Arild Andersen, Charlie Mariano, Maria João, Marilyn Crispell, Eliane Elias, Marc Johnson and many others.
Marilyn Mazur was born in New York in 1955, moving with her American parents to Denmark at the age of 6. She played piano before moving to the drums in her late teens, active initially in genres from rock to theatre music as well as jazz. An innovator in the arena of “world music”, she has travelled the world and collected percussion instruments from everywhere which she plays in both ways “traditional” and personal.
The winner of numerous awards including the Jazzpar Prize, the Edition Wilhelm Hansen Composers Prize, the Ben Webster Award and a lifetime grant from the Danish National Art Foundation, as well as Norway’s Telenor Culture Prize (she is the first international artist to win this award), Marilyn Mazur continues to perform regularly with four bands of her own - Future Song (ECM album, “Small Labyrinths”), a newly configured Marilyn Mazur Group, and trios with Per Jørgensen/Anders Jormin, and Nils Petter Molvær/Dhafer Youssef.
On January 26, 2008, Marilyn Mazur and Jan Garbarek play at Den Sorte Diamant on Copenhagen’s waterfront, in trio with guitarist Eivind Aarset.
More details of Mazur’s activities can be found on her web site: www.marilynmazur.com