Born: July 15, 1984 Primary Instrument: Sax, alto
Alto saxophonist and composer Nick Mazzarella (b. 1984) has been a participant in Chicago’s jazz, free jazz, improvised music, and rock scenes as a bandleader, sideman, and presenter since 2002. After completing his formal music education at DePaul University (Bachelor of Music 2006, Master of Music 2009), he began performing regularly with his own groups and with projects led by his peers at venues throughout the city and the United States. His efforts have been especially concentrated around the activities of his primary working band, the Nick Mazzarella Trio, the musician and presenter collective Umbrella Music, and the Ratchet Series, a grass roots effort to establish a performance haven for free jazz on the south side of Chicago. Equally at home in the worlds of the traditional and the avant-garde, Mazzarella maintains a continuous performance schedule encompassing a variety of musical contexts, but focuses the majority of his energy on the areas of composition-based free jazz and free improvisation. It is through his work in these stylistic mediums that Mazzarella has developed a distinctive voice.
Mazzarella has performed as a sideman in bands led by Ken Vandermark (Midwest School), Mars Williams (NRG Ensemble), Rob Mazurek (Exploding Star Orchestra), Frank Rosaly (Green and Gold), Devin Hoff (Bastet), Cameron Pfiffner, (Sabertooth, Marco Polo, Adolphe's Ax), Wayne Montana and Damon Locks (Eternals), Toby Summerfield (Never Enough Hope), Jason Ajemian (Magic Bone), Keefe Jackson (Project Project), Jaimie Branch (Bomb Shelter), Jake Vinsel (Horse-Fire), Joe Adamik (Joe Adamik Quartet), and Mikel Avery (Everypeople Workshop). He has also worked on an individual basis with such musicians as Anton Hatwich, Avreeayl Ra, Brian Sandstrom, Dave Rempis, Dylan Ryan, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Fredrik Ljungkvist, Guillermo Gregorio, James Falzone, Jason Adasiewicz, Jason Roebke, Jason Stein, Jeb Bishop, Jim Baker, John Herndon, Josh Berman, Joshua Abrams, Kent Kessler, Matt Schneider, Matt Chamberlain, Marc Riordan, Mike Reed, Nate Lepine, Nate McBride, Nick Broste, Nicole Mitchell, Quin Kirchner, Steve Hunt, Tim Daisy, and Tomeka Reid.
Mazzarella is a curator of the Ratchet Series in residence at the Skylark in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. The series was founded in 2007 with the aim of providing musicians of diverse styles and approaches within the genres of free jazz and improvised and experimental music with a weekly performance opportunity. By organizing these concert events Mazzarella and co-presenters Frank Rosaly and Anton Hatwich strive to foster a community that supports musicians on Chicago's south side.
Mazzarella’s prowess stems from his billowing timbre and clarity of thought. - Neil Tesser, chicagomusic.org
To hear Nick Mazzarella play the alto saxophone is to hear a well-honed connection between his creative impulse and the horn that becomes an extension of his musical identity. It is a creative instinct steeped in jazz history and brimming over with a passion for free improvisation. In Chicago’s community of aggressively original talent and dedicated musicianship, his ability stands out. His trio has become an important vehicle for realizing his musical ideas, and it has become a significant presence in the local jazz circuit. - Devin Hurd, New Music Box
Many of Mazzarella's compositions borrow Ornette Coleman's ebullient, jaunty melodicism, but he often changes the mood when he takes an extended solo - his dark, visceral phrasing and strident tone recall fire breathers like Pharoah Sanders and Albert Ayler. - Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader
Mazzarella has that satisfying union of warmth/heat and continuous, logical melodic/rhythmic thought that goes right back to the beginnings of this music. - Larry Kart, Yale University Press
To hear Mazzarella play saxophone is to bear witness to an exquisite young talent. - Kenneth Preski, New City
Mazzarella's compositional sense is heavily melodic, and he summons expert lyricism on alto saxophone. - Walter Tunis, Lexington Herald-Leader
Mazzarella possesses a joyfully keening alto saxophone tone with the impact of Ornette Coleman’s upbeat existentialism. He also reveals a capacity for cage fighting fury and fluent abstraction. - Michael Jackson, Chicago Sun Times
This is Only a Test: Live at the Hungry Brain
Sonichla Music, 2011
1. This is Only a Test
2. Do Not Disturb
6. For Henry
7. Boarding Pass
8. A Memory for Faces
Nick Mazzarella, alto saxophone and compositions (BMI 2011)
Anton Hatwich, bass
Frank Rosaly, drums
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1934 C.G. Conn Transitional Alto Saxophone
Jody Espina, da Vinci
Rico H (Harrison Copy)
Gonzalez, Local 627 Cut
König & Meyer 14340