Listening to Elixir is like stepping into a Masai speakeasy in a galaxy far, far away. Marilyn Mazur and Jan Garbarek perform musical alchemy on this recording, transforming seemingly random and basic percussions and notes into an ethereal experience.
I've been a drummer in the past and I'd selfishly been hoping for copious use of a basic drum kit. Mazur has played with a host of musicians. I recognized Miles Davis if not many others on the list. Perhaps that tainted my idea about the type of percussion I'd be hearing. But Mazur is a percussionist, not just a drummer. Her partner on this record, Jan Garbarek, also has a long history of making music. Since the 1960s he's been playing jazz.
Mazur plays an impressive array of instruments: marimba's, bells, Indian cowbell, gongs, cymbals, vibraphones, and waterphones. I'm not even sure what some of these things actually sound like. Sometimes it sounded like lots of dishes crashing together in a kitchen, other times it was all very soothing. What's even more impressive is that she's self-taught. She's been playing professionally since the early 1970s.
It’s like a soundtrack to environmental activism if that makes any sense. These are basic, temporal tunes played precisely and yet they transport you well beyond temporal bounds. I appreciated a number of things: the tribal rhythms, the precise saxophone, the variety of percussion instruments and the overall aura created.
Not surprisingly, it was the tribal rhythms that I enjoyed the most. “Dunun Song” is an excellent example of capturing these tribal grooves. Atop that saxophone notes skid, skip, and hop through the song like a stone on water. Or maybe they're more like smoke signals. The song transports you to the wild.
The title track is an adroitly performed piece of percussion. Mazur has fast, precise hands. She throws out some fabulously punctuated rolls. It's quite hypnotic. Songs like “Orientales” evoke images of jazzy snake charmers; “Joy Chant” is just a groovy, sax heavy trip. Garbarek sounds as if he's playing a song on that track as opposed to singular notes on most of the other songs.