Dimensional Stardust (International Anthem / Nonesuch)

Exploding Star Orchestra

Released November 2020

New York Times Best Jazz Albums of 2020






Marfa, Texas–based multidisciplinary abstractivist and creative auteur Rob Mazurek released a new album with Exploding Star Orchestra, Dimensional Stardust, via International Anthem / Nonesuch Records on November 20, 2020. Mazurek has made an indelible impact on creative music over the past thirty years since emerging from the musical nexus of the 1990s Chicago scene. He has written more than 400 compositions, is featured on more than seventy recordings from various labels, and has led or co-led many ensembles, including Exploding Star Orchestra (his flagship large ensemble), Chicago Underground, Isotope 217, and more.

Following the 2018 JazzFest Berlin debut of the new Exploding Star Orchestra music, Mazurek returned to Chicago, where International Anthem took the opportunity to capture his new ESO compositions with a cast of collaborators from their collective constellation of artists. Over a handful of studio dates between August 2019 and March 2020, Mazurek arranged his pieces for eleven musicians—Nicole Mitchell, Jeff Parker, Jaimie Branch, Joel Ross, Mikel Patrick Avery, Tomeka Reid, Chad Taylor, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Macie Stewart, Angelica Sanchez, and John Herndon. He also commissioned his long-time lyrics collaborator Damon Locks to draft original texts for each of the songs; Locks also recorded vocal tracks. After three months of rigorous post-production, editing, and assembly work, Mazurek completed Dimensional Stardust.

Dimensional Stardust recalls an array of Mazurek’s symphonic­ influences—from Béla Bartók to Morton Feldman to Gil Evans to Sun Ra to Pedro Santos to Bill Dixon to The Art Ensemble of Chicago. Opting to focus on tight ensemble orchestration over passages of open improvisation, Mazurek distills an orchestra of explosive improvisers into a beautifully restrained, graceful group exercise in melodic minimalism. Mazurek himself is sparsely present as an instrumentalist, only occasionally joining the ensemble with his piccolo trumpet. All the way through, the electro-acoustic poly-rhythmic percussion section (Chad Taylor, Mikel Patrick Avery, and John Herndon) churns, peaking in rare soloist moments by flutist Nicole Mitchell (on the opener “Sun Core Tet”) and guitarist Jeff Parker (on “The Careening Prism Within”).

The song “A Wrinkle in Time Sets Concentric Circles Reeling,” Mazurek explains, is “a tone poem in three parts concerning possibilities. There are so many different sides to a thing … a kaleidoscope of possibility exists in each moment in each breath in each movement. The first part of the piece is the winding up, intricate layering, the study of time, of angles, of color, of space. The second part is the breakthrough, the realization that each moment is a possibility for cathartic action through universal love wave correspondence, the sound of feeling, the sound of healing, the sound of joy. The third part continues this idea as if in a dream…what is real, what is imagined…perhaps we can break through the galaxial ceiling of what we think we know and treat each other, this planet, this universe with the respect and dignity it so deserves.” Avery says of his accompanying video: “Watching and being around my five-year-old daughter, I am constantly reminded of the imaginary spirit that is in all of us. Over time we are subject to a fading of this spirit. In these films I wanted to explore the idea of our imagination being a different type of currency that we must fight to protect and carry with us despite its oppositions.”

Track Listing:

1. Sun Core Tet (Parable 99) (Damon Locks / Rob Mazurek) 05:52

2. A Wrinkle in Time Sets Concentric Circles Reeling (Damon Locks / Rob Mazurek) 06:27

3. Galaxy 1000 (Damon Locks / Rob Mazurek) 03:29

4. The Careening Prism Within (Parable 43) (Damon Locks / Rob Mazurek) 02:59

5. Abstract Dark Energy (Parable 9) (Damon Locks / Rob Mazurek) 02:48

6. Parable of Inclusion (Damon Locks / Rob Mazurek) 04:03

7. Dimensional Stardust (Parable 33) (Damon Locks / Rob Mazurek) 04:26

8. Minerals Bionic Stereo (Damon Locks / Rob Mazurek) 01:45

9. We All Come From Somewhere Else (Parable 3000) (Damon Locks / Rob Mazurek) 04:49

10. Autumn Pleiades (Damon Locks / Rob Mazurek) 06:31


Rob Mazurek: director, composer, piccolo trumpet, electronic renderings, modular synth
Damon Locks: voice, electronics, texts
Nicole Mitchell: flutes
Macie Stewart: violins
Tomeka Reid: cellos
Joel Ross: vibraphone
Jeff Parker: guitar
Jaimie Branch: trumpet
Angelica Sanchez: acoustic piano, electric piano
Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: bass
Chad Taylor: drums, percussion
Mikel Patrick Avery: drums, percussion
John Herndon: drum machines
Words by Damon Locks

Recorded August, 2019 – March, 2020, in Chicago, Il
Engineered, Recorded & Mixed by David Allen & Dave Vettraino
Additional Recording by Nicole Mitchell, Mikel Patrick Avery, John Herndon & Rob Mazurek
Edited by Dave Vettraino
Mastered by Dave Cooley
Cover Painting by Rob Mazurek (“Some Other Time” 2020)
Produced by Scott McNiece, David Allen, Dave Vettraino & Rob Mazurek


For the latest recording from this loosely configured group of Chicago avant-garde all-stars, the cornetist Rob Mazurek wrote detailed music with a focus on pairs (two cellos, two flutes, two drums), then let the energy of joyful convocation take over. After the recording was made, he cut and spliced and added electronic sounds, ending up with an intoxicating android of an album.

Giovanni Russonello (New York Times)