Jason Ajemian's Smokeless Heat: The Art of Dying (2008)
A current example is bassist Jason Ajemian, whose Delmark Records debut, The Art of Dying, features his own longstanding trio. A busy sideman, Ajemian is a member of the Chicago Underground Trio, Exploding Star Orchestra, A Cushicle and numerous other regional bands. Smokeless Heat, his close-knit trio with drummer Noritaka Tanaka and tenor saxophonist Tim Haldeman is joined by a handful of local associates, including Jamie Branch (trumpet), Matt Schneider (guitar) and Jason Adasiewicz (marimba).
Varying from trio to sextet, the fluctuating ensemble navigates a program that encapsulates the diverse continuum of jazz history. From gorgeous ballads and ethereal tone poems to simmering blues and angular post bop, the rotating line-up handles each style with utter conviction and carefree conversational acumen.
Ajemian and Noritaka Tanaka reveal their deep-seated rapport over a wide range of forms. Their rubato interplay on "Manisia Lynn" ebbs with a leisurely pulse and thoughtful articulation, whereas the knotty "U're The Guy" catches them in a raw mood, as they careen through an electrifying free bop shuffle.
Tim Haldeman is a refreshing new voice with a textbook knowledge of the tenor tradition. His languorous cadence and dulcet tone on "Miss O" invokes the breathy timbre of pre-swing tenors, while the caterwauling multiphonics that erupt from his tenor on "9 Car" conjure the strident attack of Post-War modernists.
Jamie Branch makes a perfect foil to Haldeman as they trade lines, alternating fiery brio with lyrical restraint. Matt Schneider is a nuanced stylist adept at understated sentiments and Jason Adasiewicz's woody marimba tones add a kaleidoscopic patina to the set.
Scattered word-by-word across the set, the album title is broken into four miniature vignettes that serve as recurrent fanfares. The session alternates between tantalizingly brief sketches and more conventional tunes, encompassing a wide variety of approaches, from the bluesy soulfulness of "Sackett's Harbor" to the ominous drama of "Machine Gun Operator." Recorded for a radio broadcast, the 24 minute trio improvisation "Smokeless Heat Live on WMSE, Milwaukee" concludes the record with a dynamic, focused exploration of moods, ranging from serene to vivacious, without devolving into meandering formlessness.
Another brilliant document verifying Chicago's ancient to the future jazz aesthetic, The Art of Dying is a vibrant example of what lies ahead.
Track Listing: With or Without the Universalator (Birdie's Dream); The; Your Shirts; Art; Miss O; 9 Car; Of; U're the Guy (Keith Wood); Dying; Sackett's Harbor; Ludicrous Dreams and Solar Guided Lovehandles; Machine Gun Operator; Manisia Lynn; 220.127.116.11; Smokeless Heat Live on WMSE, Milwaukee.
Personnel: Jason Ajemian: bass; Tim Haldeman: tenor saxophone; Noritaka Tanaka: drums; Jamie Branch: trumpet; Matt Schneider: guitar; Jason Adasiewicz: marimba.
Record Label: Delmark Records
Style: Modern Jazz