El Paraiso Records Readies Reissue of ‘Chicago Odense Ensemble’

With a new year comes a new you…and new records. But January is what I call the slow season. Winter hits, things come to a bit of a crawl on the new release front. You’re still a bit woozy from everything that came the year before(and all those year-end lists that crazy people obsessively write.) It seems everyone is hibernating and the new record landscape is a bit barren.

But when it comes to El Paraiso Records, this is when things begin to get rolling.

The Danish label usually start things off right in the new year. In January of 2018 they slammed our frontal lobes with the excellent Nicklas Sorensen sophomore release Solo 2. This year the label is dropping a reissue of what is essentially the record that started it all for the label, Chicago Odense Ensemble. I’ll let them explain:

Chicago Odense Ensemble is a unique collaboration that came together in the winter of 2008 while Danish musicians Jonas Munk and Jakob Skøtt stayed in Chicago. Via mutual friends, and a support gig for Isotope 217 in Millenium Park, a studio session was arranged for the two to improvise and lay down ideas with some of Chicago’s finest improvisers, including members of Tortoise and Chicago Underground Collective. Improvisation aren’t unusual for the two danes, however, as they were already more than accustomed to working from spontaneity and freeform structures in long-running psych/kraut/prog unit Causa Sui, and has since then participated in a number of installments of the Impetus series on their own El Paraiso Records label – a series dedicated to impro sessions, chance collaborations and live recordings.

During the Chicago studio session hours of loose ideas, grooves and atmospherics were recorded,
ranging from loud, intense musical outbursts led by cornetist Rob Mazurek, to delicate, colourful ambiences. Later, the finest moments were edited, re-arranged and mixed by Jonas Munk in his studio in Odense, doing a great deal of cutting and pasting, and adding a psychedelic and dubby vibe to the soundscape, using delays and effects as instruments during the mixing process. The result is something quite unique: a sonic brew that exists somewhere in between the aesthetics of impro jazz, hypnotic rock and electronica. The closest reference for this kind of music is probably early 1970s proto-fusion jazz that strived for a similar synthesis of jazz improvisation, psychedelic rock, eastern and african sounds as well as the use of the studio as a musical tool. Conceptually this album therefore seems more related to Miles Davis’ ventures into electric music in the late 1960s that culminated in the early 1970s with albums such as “Live Evil”. And album centerpiece ”Delivery” gives a possible answer to the mystery of what the fabled collaboration between Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix might have sounded like, had it ever happened.

Even though Chicago Odense Ensemble is undeniably modern sounding in some ways, it also reaches back to an era in music where the fusion of jazz and rock were still regarded with optimism, and where musical spontaneity and freedom seemed a vehicle for cosmic beauty rather than esoteric formalism. The album was originally released by French label Adluna in 2011, as a limited edition 2LP and CD available by mailorder only. This is the first time the album is available through wider distribution.

Rob Mazurek     cornet
Jeff Parker      guitar
Dan Bitney      drums and percussion
Matt Lux      bass
Brian Keigher      percussion
Jonas Munk      guitar and electronics
Jakob Skøtt     drums and percussion

Stepping into the world of Chicago Odense Ensemble is like walking into a session run by Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, Can, and Popol Vuh. A massive brainstorm of creativity that meshes hard bop, freeform jazz, and the experimental spirit of Krautrock all rolled into an Afro-Cuban expanse. Imagine Bitches Brew waking up in bed after a night of heavy drinking and mind expanding with Tago Mago and In den Gärten Pharaos. It’s these amazing musical worlds colliding, meshing, and intermingling that makes Chicago Odense Ensemble such an exciting and invigorating record. It has the vibe of both a contemporary trip and something like creative lightning in a bottle. If you found out this was some lost session from 1969 in a smoke-filled CBS recording studio on a cold New York night there would be no surprise at all. Chicago Odense Ensemble carries with it a mood of history and vibrancy.

This is an essential slab of wax.

Preorder Chicago Odense Ensemble now over at El Paraiso Records. It drops February 15th.


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