Friday, May 29, 2015

Jason Roebke Octet, High/Red/Center

Those who follow the Chicago jazz scene and those who regularly read my blogs know that there is an important, loosely federated group of Chicago jazz artist-composers who have been quite active in the last decade or so making some very good music in various ever-changing configurations.

The music has compositional and improvisatory influences that range from mature Eric Dolphy and perhaps Mingus, the early Shepp-Dixon-Tchicai-Cherry bands, to the AACM and beyond, and they manage to make something new and very good out of it all. I will not run down a complete list of these musicians. The album at hand today features a good number of them in an octet under the leadership of bassist Jason Roebke. High/Red/Center (Delmark 5014) is the title of the album.

Roebke plays some very accomplished bass on this one, but the primary emphasis is on the structure of his compositions and what the entire octet makes of them. The band is an exemplary gathering of some of the new Chicago artists, Roebke of course but also Greg Ward on alto, Keefe Jackson on tenor, Jason Stein on bass clarinet, Josh Berman on cornet, Jeb Bishop on trombone, Jason Adasiewicz on vibes and Mike Reed on drums. All have at one time led subgroupings of their own and all belong to the loose confederation I speak of.

The music is highly complex, accomplished and varied, showing both roots and the ultra-contemporary avant stance of the present. The pieces have much room for individual and collective spontaneous contributions, which this band very much excels at. You hear eleven pieces in all, varied and fascinating, convincing and very today.

High/Red/Center stands out as one of the typically fantastic examples of the new Chicago music. If you were only to have a handful of new Chicago sounds, this should be one of them. What is so interesting about this band and the movement in general is that the music somehow captures the enthusiasm and joy of the new jazz in its early stages, yet it gives us a very contemporary spin on that moment with an accomplished conceptual and rousingly free attitude. Excellent it is!

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