“Celestial Circle” is the recording debut of the band of the same name. First assembled for Marilyn Mazur’s season as artist-in-residence at Norway’s Molde Jazz Festival in 2008, the group has since become a popular institution on the concert circuit, and the present disc, recorded in Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in 2010 is issued on the eve of a European tour. It’s a band of diverse strengths and changing moods, song-oriented but also instrumentally expressive. Organically percussive, too, with Mazur’s panoply of drums and gongs and cymbals and bells a source of natural melody and evocative texture. Pianist John Taylor, in his first ECM session in several years, is keyed at all times to the inflections of Josefine Cronholm’s voice, framing it with his characteristic harmonic sophistication and elegant lyricism. Anders Jormin’s bass provides a dark undertow, anchors the music, moves freely in the improvised sections... Even in its quietest moments the group conveys a great deal of musical information.
Mazur’s work has always expressed a free-spiritedness beyond idioms and borders. Born in New York, raised in Denmark, she has contributed powerfully to improvisation on both sides of the Atlantic, and her resume has included well-documented stints with Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter and Gil Evans in the late 1980s as well as 14 years on the road with the Jan Garbarek Group (an association referenced on Mazur’s “Elixir” recording of 2005).
Alongside such high-profile engagements, Mazur has maintained her own bands and projects; ECM recorded her Future Song ensemble in 1994. One such project was Percussion Paradise which included singer Josefine Cronholm – the combination of Cronholm’s and Mazur’s voices is further developed in Celestial Circle.
Mazur has received a number of awards for her music, most recently the First International EuroCore - JTI Jazz Award: Celestial Circle played at the prize-giving ceremony in Trier’s Kurfürstliches Palais last December. Other prizes have included the JazzPar Prize (Europe’s biggest jazz award), the Ben Webster Prize and the Django D’Or.
“Celestial Circle” marks an ECM debut for Swedish singer Cronholm. Since the mid-1990s, when she collaborated with Django Bates’s Human Chain group, she has been consistently singled out as one of the most original European jazz vocalists of her generation.
John Taylor’s elegant and resourceful piano playing has had a role to play in many ECM contexts including discs with Jan Garbarek, John Surman, Kenny Wheeler, Miroslav Vitous and Peter Erskine as well as Azimuth, the trio he co-founded with Wheeler and Norma Winstone, and his own ‘New York Trio’ with Marc Johnson and Joey Baron (album: “Rosslyn”). Taylor’s rapport was bassist Anders Jormin who was previously confirmed on Mark Feldman’s 2006 recording “What Exit”.
Anders Jormin also records as a leader for ECM, with recordings including “Xieyi” and “In winds, in light” (a new album is in preparation). He is a long-term member of the Bobo Stenson Trio, and appears on ECM discs by Charles Lloyd, Don Cherry, Tomasz Stanko, Mark Feldman, Jon Balke and Sinikka Langeland.
Marilyn Mazur can also be seen in the documentary film “Sounds and Silence” by Peter Guyer and Norbert, newly available in DVD and Blu-Ray formats.