Label: PfMentum Records, 2018
Personnel - Jason Robinson: tenor and alto saxophones, flute; JD Parran: alto saxophone, contra-alto clarinet, bass flute; Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute; Oscar Noriega: bass clarinet, clarinet, alto saxophone; Michael Dessen: trombone; Marcus Rojas: tuba; Bill Lowe: tuba, bass trombone; Liberty Ellman: guitar; Drew Gress: bass; George Schuller: drums; Ches Smith: drums, glockenspiel.
Jason Robinson is a sure-footed reedist, composer, bandleader and improviser, who might not be as prolific as some of the ten peers that join him in this seven-movement suite recording, but he definitely knows where he wants to take his Resonant Geographies. All tracks on the album have different sonic topologies as they were inspired by specific locations and memories.
Robinson’s unaccompanied saxophone suggests a sort of chant in the preliminary statements of ”Facing East”, a jaunty post-bop imagination that has 1981 Presidio as picturesque stimulus. However, instead of following that approach, he exerts circular and elliptical movements, multiphonics, and configures nimble ostinatos before embarking in extended unison phrases with the horn section. His inflamed, fluent, groove-inflected solo finds room to breathe on top of a percolating swinging rhythm. He is preceded by Marty Ehrlich on alto saxophone, and followed by guitarist Liberty Ellman, also a fabulous accompanist, who picks up the tail of his solo to give a great speech tinted by vigorous horn fills. Going in an opposite direction, “Facing West” doesn’t hide Henry Threadgill’s blatant influences in a smart orchestration that has tuba, trombone, guitar, and shuffled drum sounds as key textural elements.
Sonically picturing Virgin Creek in 1996, “Confluence” challenges our ears with intricate accents and rhythm juxtapositions, dissolving into a frantic swing that rolls forward after Drew Gress’ extrovert bass solo. Robinson conducts a soulful, boppish statement with invigorating excitement until a vamp spotlights Ches Smith, who innately infuses ritualistic Afro thumps.
Borrowing the Afro groovy moods of Nubians of Plutonia by Sun Ra, “Futures Unimagined” moves with an irresistible, temperate rhythm, and is spiced by sinuous melodies commanded by flute. The single improviser here is Bill Lowe, who pervades his muted bass trombone digression with hoots.
“Dreaming” exposes a 3-minute introductory dance for reeds and woodwinds before setting off in a collective journey whose caravan pace allows the full range of JD Parran’s clarinet to standout. The pace is accelerated in the final section, ending up as a whimsical snare-driven parade.
The final piece, “Outcropping”, is a searching expedition that, besides thriving with fidgeting improvisations by Oscar Noriega on bass clarinet and Michael Dessen on trombone, comes energetically charged with intense percussive permutations between Smith and Schuller.
Although flooded with aesthetic influences, Jason Robinson preserves a strong artistic identity through captivating arrangements of his original material. There is certainly jazz tradition here, but also a blissful sense of contemporary vitality.
01 - Facing East ► 02 - Futures Unimagined ► 05 - Facing West