January 15, 1997 was a cold and snowy night in Chicago. At the Lunar Cabaret that evening, two Chicago Underground Orchestra members were beginning to hone their skills as a duo during what they would later describe as a magical evening. Rob Mazurek and Chad Taylor are stalwarts on the Chicago Jazz front and have played with myriad artists and group from hard bop to free jazz.
On 12 Degrees, the two meld their various influences and talents to form a free-flowing, moon scaped recording. Taylor started playing professionally in Chicago at the age of fourteen. He moved to New York in 1991 where he played with with Lou Donaldson, Leon Parker, Junior Mance and Mark Turner and helped form the free improvisational group, Life Ensemble. In 1996, he returned to Chicago and joined the Chicago Underground Orchestra. Mazurek's tenure in the Chicago music scene spans over ten years. He has performed and recorded with many of the Windy City's leading musicians including Fred Hopkins, Tortoise, Gastr del Sol, Loren Mazzacane Conners and Jim O'Rourke.
The recordings that make up 12 Degrees of Freedom are a mix of studio tracks and live performances. Taylor and Mazurek’s choice of instruments, melodic and rhythmic sense, and ability to play with and off each other create songs varied in texture, mood, and depth. The results, while instrumentally spare, are full musically. The songs have an uncanny feeling of depth and space largely due to Mazurek and Taylor’s selection of instrumentation (vibes, flute, piano and guitar) in addition to their primary instruments of cornet and drums. Jeff Parker (Tortoise, New Horizons Ensemble) was a natural choice for guitar as he plays with Taylor and Mazurek in the Underground Orchestra. The remaining instruments were played soley by Mazurek and Taylor. When asked to describe the Duo, Mazurek playfully states, "Chicago Underground Duo steps out to reach all musical beings with many musical styles, and tap the influence of one force." Mazurek’s description mirrors in tone the nature of this record.