When cornetist Rob Mazurek and percussionist Chad Taylor hired bassist Noel Kupersmith, the Chicago Underground Duo became the Chicago Underground Trio. And when guitarist Jeff Parker came on board for 2000's Flamethrower, the group became a quartet, however, it kept the name Chicago Underground Trio instead of changing its name to the Chicago Underground Quartet. Whatever the group calls itself, Flamethrower is a generally enjoyable, if imperfect, avant-garde jazz date. Outside playing is dominant, and the influence of Chicago's AACM is strong throughout the CD. Flamethrower is clearly the work of musicians who have spent a lot of time listening to AACM explorers like Roscoe Mitchell, Anthony Braxton, and Muhal Richard Abrams. And like the AACM artists who have influenced them, this group tends to offer avant-garde jazz that is reflective and contemplative rather than angry or confrontational (adjectives that describe the free jazz of Charles Gayle, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, and post-1964 John Coltrane). This isn't an album that one can easily absorb on the first listen, but after playing Flamethrower several times, the listener finds more and more to like about this music. Despite its imperfections, Flamethrower is worth picking up if you're an admirer of AACM-style jazz.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson