Jason Robinson: Tiresian Symmetry (2012)
Immersed in the myths of ancient Greece, multi-reedman Jason Robinson underscores this major work based on the prophet Tiresias, who lived as both a man and woman. Nonetheless, Robinson has proven that change and risk-taking via the power of his pen and acute technical skills have become a de facto standard. From a jazz standpoint, he employs an impressive support structure to carry out his strategy. Robinson's nonet is postured to mimic the finesse of a big band or blow walls down with concentrated small group improvisational blowouts.
The leader's compositions convey a striking degree of contrasts. Whether its raucous tuba dialogues, sprinting rhythmic thrusts or carefully coordinated thematic developments, he uncannily merges catchy, tension-building themes with a no- nonsense mode of operations. Each instrumentalist is a vital cog in the wheel of success, especially since the program proceeds with the impetus of an action-packed cinematic thriller. Spanning multi-timbre hues, whirling flutes, a whack of a glockenspiel and punishing crescendos, Robinson engineers a vibrant montage of memorable works, partly seasoned with punishing horns choruses.
At times, the band zigzags through loose-groove dyads and a laidback gait, but kicks out the jams on the John Coltrane-esque "Radiate," where Robinson soars to the netherworld with spiritual assurance. Riding above a medium-tempo and pumping cadence, this piece features a dueling contest between tubaists Marcus Rojas and Bill Lowe (who also alternates on bass trombone) amid angst ridden horn escapades, frothy detours, and multilayered horns choruses. Guitarist Liberty Ellman's animated electric guitar soloing spearheads a cosmic reckoning, sparked with guileful electronics maneuvers.
A recurring implication may be that the seatbelt should be fastened before listening to this tune. Imagery of this nature may also apply to "Elbow Grease," as a seething Johnny-on-the-spot breakout is composed of asymmetrical parts bop, free jazz, and a compact bass and horns ostinato. Robinson is a modern-era apostle, summoning a new jazz order.
Track Listing: Stratum; Tiresian Symmetry; Radiate; Saros; Elbow Grease Introduction; Elbow Grease; Corduroy; Cosmolographie.
Personnel: Jason Robinson: tenor sax, alto flute, soprano sax; JD Parran: alto clarinet, contrabass clarinet, tenor sax; Marty Ehrlich: alto sax, bass clarinet, flute; Marcas Rojas: tuba; Bill Lowe: tuba, bass trombone; Liberty Ellman: guitar; Drew Gress: bass; George Schuller: drums; Ches Smith: drums, glockenspiel.