Jason Adasiewicz's Rolldown: Varmint (2009)
The gently resonant ebb and flow of Adasiewicz's vibraphone defines the music on this record. There is an ever-present hum and ululation in the air, as Adasiewicz controls sound like a master painter, daubing just enough to strike a new note that somehow finds a place in his invented melodies. "Green Grass" is resplendent, as it sways and echoes with a resonant blanket of forward-moving sound. Elsewhere, Adasiewicz seemingly plucks chords from nowhere as he swerves and dives into an extended narration, turning Andrew Hill classic, "The Griots" into an epic trudge into the heart of musical history.
The fine musicians joining Adasiewicz give an outstanding account of themselves, both collectively and individually. Despite an all-pervasive challenge to negotiate Adasiewicz's complex music, Rosaly questions and probes at the heart of the rhythm, constantly feeling the pulse of the song, moving it slightly ahead and then pulling it back a bit on "Punchbug." Roebke skips around Rosaly, as if anticipating where the drummer is shifting the piece's rhythmic center. Together they play hide-and-seek with Adasiewicz with dramatic results.
Berman is magnificent on "Varmint" and on "Dagger" while making a sublime duo with Shelton on "Green Grass," a song that breathes rapidly with the longing of spring. On "Hide" and "I Hope She is Awake," the two meld storied humor with deadly musical seriousness, their instumental virtuosity and expression being the stuff that legends are made of.
Much has been made of Rolldown's affinity to Ornette Coleman famous and revolutionary ensembles, but the group's only real affinity with Coleman's pathbreaking sound and unique approach to collective improvisation is its approach to the interpretation of the colors and textures. Here, too, Adasiewicz and his cohorts have found a new canvas to paint.
Track Listing: Green Grass; Varmint; Dagger; Hide; I Hope She is Awake; Punchbug; The Griots.
Personnel: Jason Adasiewicz: vibraphone; Josh Berman: cornet; Aram Shelton: alto saxophone, clarinet; Jason Roebke: bass; Frank Rosaly: drums.
Record Label: Cuneiform Records
Style: Modern Jazz