Jason Roebke: double bass; Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Keefe Jackson: tenor saxophone; Jeb Bishop: trombone; Jason Stein: bass clarinet; Josh Berman: cornet; Jason Adasiewicz: vibraphone; Mike Reed: drums.
A persistent curiosity is drawn when we hear the music of Chicagoan Jason Roebke, a forward-thinking avant-garde bassist who's conquering more and more space within the modern jazz styles.
Throughout a career that spans for 20 years, Roebke has recorded with drummer Mike Reid, trumpeter Nate Wooley, cellist Tomeka Reid, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, and the Chicago quartet Klang. The recordings under his own name are established with a variety of formations – solo, typical guitar and clarinet trios, and bigger ensembles.
Just like High/Red/Center (Delmark Records, 2014), Cinema Spiral, released on NoBusiness Records, was recorded with his ebullient octet and comes fully equipped with challenging modern compositions structured to accommodate individual statements and high-flying collective divagations.
The octet's lineup didn’t change, maintaining a five-horn frontline with Greg Ward on alto saxophone, Keefe Jackson on tenor, Jeb Bishop on trombone, Jason Stein on bass clarinet, and Josh Berman on cornet. Joining him in the rhythm section are vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz and the intrepid drummer Mike Reed.
With the tunes connected as a suite, Cinema Spiral opens with “Looking Directly Into the Camera”, whose unconventional structure takes us to hallucinogenic cinematic universes. Roebke roams through an early solo, corroborating with the idea that, for that particular moment, an unobtrusive atmosphere is worthier than a stormy agitation. Layers get thicker after the reed players arrive.
In the stimulating “Focusing”, the behavior of the rhythm section makes the 4/4-swing feeling less obvious. In addition to the highly aesthetic vibes of Adasiewicz, the multi-horn aggregation provides for creative meddling.
We are immediately transported to quieter territories with “For a Moment”, which for a few minutes is governed by the soothing trumpet melodies of Berman. After Roebke’s visionary improvisation, the tune becomes luxuriant, yet invariably consistent.
Both “Getting High” and “People Laughing” have riotous interactions in common. While the former gradually changes from musing to riotous, the latter does the opposite, serenading the rambunctious brassy whirlwinds as it moves forward.
“Waiting” is a strong one. It features solos by Bishop and Stein, whose rhythmic idea get prompt responses from his likes. The individual improvisational passages are interspersed with invigorating collective cacophonies.
Roebke finalizes with “L’acmé”, a fanciful tempo-shifting inspiration that highlights polyphonies and unisons, encouraging free interplay.
Packed with liberating densities and asymmetries, Cinema Spiral feels like a stony trip into the vagueness. Taking into account the quality of his compositions and style, Roebke deserves to stand above the radar, side by side with other hyper-creative fellow bassists such as Mario Pavone, Joe Fonda, and William Parker.
Label: NoBusiness Records, 2016
02 – Focusing ► 06 – Waiting ► 07 – L’acmé