Travellin’ Light

Rob Mazurek
Answers 20 Questions About Life on the Road

Rob Mazurek                                                                                                            ©2014 Guido Gazzilli

Chicago-based composer, improviser and multi-media artist Rob Mazurek has drawn inspiration from a multitude of audio and visual styles and sources over the past three decades. Augmenting his cornet playing with computer programming, electronics and an assortment of keyboards, Mazurek's broad electro-acoustic palette defies simple categorization. Having relocated back to Chicago after an extended stay in São Paulo, Brazil, Mazurek currently leads and composes for a wide variety of ongoing ensembles, including the Chicago Underground Collective, Exploding Star Orchestra and São Paulo Underground – and, most recently, Pharoah & The Underground (featuring Pharoah Sanders). Additionally, Mazurek has exhibited his visual art internationally.

His most recent release is Spiral Mercury, the debut of Pharoah & The Underground (Clean Feed). Mazurek’s newest ensemble, Black Cube SP, will be touring as a quartet (São Paulo Underground + Thomas Rohrer) in the US in the Spring of 2015 and Europe in the Fall of 2015, to promote his next album, Return the Tides, to be released on Cuneiform in October. Alternate Moon Cycles, a trio session with Matthew Lux on electric bass and Mikel Patrick Avery on pump organ, will be released on International Anthem by the end of the year, while Some Jellyfish Live Forever, a duo with guitarist Jeff Parker for Rogue Art and Galactic Parables, a new Exploding Star Orchestra record for Cuneiform, are slated to be released early next year.

For more information about Rob Mazurek, consult:

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What is the most difficult airline to deal with in terms of instruments and equipment?

Since I play the cornet and travel light there is not much of a problem on any airline. Sometimes there are problems stowing even small bags on Ryan or Easy Jet.

Which airline has the worst economy seating and food?

All airlines. Economy Airline seating and food in any capacity is nasty. Luckily I studied Buddhist meditation for a long time, so I can put on the headphones and listen to transportive sound, relax even under the most incredible situation and have a stash of fine dark chocolate to keep me cool and smiling until arrival.

Which airport is craziest for making connecting flights?

Charles de Gaulle.

What is the most important thing you ever forgot to pack?


What is your worst lost baggage story?

I will substitute this question with a lost band story! I was waiting in Madrid for 2 band members from Sao Paulo Underground to arrive.  It was 10 in the morning. We waited and waited, asked questions with no answers as to their whereabouts. Finally we were told they were being held in detention for no reason at all. Many calls to the consulate in Brazil, the US and still nothing. Some of the shows we were to do were even sponsored by the Spanish government! Noon came, then 3pm then 5pm, still no answers until about 11:30 at night when they informed us that if they did not walk through the doors at midnight this means they were deported back to Brazil and this in fact is what happened ... we were able to get through the 10 shows in Spain (due to the promoters insistence and the fact that the airline would not grant us tickets back to our countries) with just 2 of us, protesting the whole time. Our last show on this tour was to be in Verona, Italy after the Spain debacle ... I was able to convince the wonderful Nicola Tessitore at Verona Jazz Festival to buy new tickets for my bandmates who were deported. In the end he made it happen and it was an incredible show. A few days after the performance Nicola told me in private that the chairman of the festival wanted to shoot him because of this added expense ... I laughed and thought he was kidding but he looked me right in the eye and said: “No Rob! you do not understand ... he really wanted to shoot me! 

What country hassles musicians the most at customs and passport checks?

London, England.

Which city has the worst cab drivers?

I once stood next to a cab stand in Madrid for 45 minutes after a 9 hour flight, because they would not take me to my hotel because it was too close to the airport. I started to scream very loudly ... they took me to the hotel then.

What is the best hotel that a presenter has provided for you?

In Taranto Italy I stayed at the mansion of the winery Vetrere’ ... It is 100 yards to the Ionian Sea and we swam in the sea, dined on fish from the sea and wine from the winery and the best eggplant parmigiana of all time. The owner also gave me a nifty Swiss army knife and wine, olive oil, and pasta to take home with me.

Do you travel with a laptop or a PDA? If so, how many times a day do you check your e-mail?

iPhone and ipad. I generally stay off the devices as far as email goes, unless there is an emergency. I use the devices to listen to and compose music. I like to give the devices a rest and rediscover the idea of quality of life slow living when on tour.

Do you listen to music on the road? If so, what device do you use?


Do you do your own laundry on the road?

Sometimes, but usually if I mention it to the right people they will do it and happily. On occasion I will wash a t-shirt in dire straits.

What is your most nightmarish sound check to date?

Anytime the sound guy insists he knows what you should sound like is disastrous. I will tell you that the best sound guy in the universe is the sound guy at Alchemia in Krakow, Poland. He is magical.

What is the scariest food that has been laid out for you backstage?

The scariest is when you show up and there is nothing at all after an all-night flight or train. The best backstage food is always in Italy and Spain because it is always fresh and from the region. São Paulo is also great, a bottle of cachaca goes a long way.

What are your three favorite venues?

Area Sismica in Forli Italy, Musicus Concentus Sala Vanni in Florence Italy, Jazz em Agosto/Gulbenkian Foundation’s amphitheater in Lisbon, Portugal.

Which cities have the best restaurants for late after-gig meals?

Spain is the late night hang place for amazing food: San Sebastian, Madrid, Barcelona. São Paulo is also great for this.

Which cities have the best after-hours sessions?


What is the best city that closes down too early?


What is the best locale to have a day off?

Anywhere in the Salento area of Italy. A mountain spa in Kyoto.

What is your cure for jet lag?

Stay up until midnight no matter what. Eat some fine dark Chocolate, make love to your soul mate in the universe (even if in the mind), and sleep like a fish.

What is your best tip for the novice?

Don’t be a loud obnoxious asshole. Elegance and firm friendliness will get you everywhere.

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