Former indie rock drummer turned jazz vibraphonist, Jason Adasiewicz has slowly but surely made his mark on the vibrant Chicago jazz scene. With musical roots in the alt-country circuit, the former drummer for Pinetop Seven and singer Edith Frost is now a regular sideman to Fred Lonberg-Holm, Rob Mazurek, Nicole Mitchell, Mike Reed and Ken Vandermark.
The self-titled debut of his Rolldown ensemble shares more than a passing similarity to the classic mid-60s Blue Note sessions of such luminaries as Eric Dolphy, Bobby Hutcherson and Jackie McLean. The shadow of Dolphy's landmark album Out To Lunch (Blue Note, 1964) hangs heavy over the date; Adasiewicz and company offer subtle variations on the innovative album's distinctive angular themes and fractured rhythms.
Rolldown features some of Chicago's most outstanding young improvisers, who regularly play together in a variety of ensembles and line-ups. Navigating Adasiewicz's jagged themes, Aram Shelton's acerbic alto and supple clarinet trades thorny lines with Josh Berman's brazen cornet, forming an expressive front line. Bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Frank Rosaly, long standing rhythm section partners, are scene regulars with an intuitive rapport, able to lend structural stability to the most abstract of grooves.
An adherent of the four-mallet style pioneered by Gary Burton, Adasiewicz is a quicksilver performer whose knotty phrases cascade with ricocheting intensity. His writing eschews conventional chord changes and rhythmic pulses, preferring improvised harmonies and elastic tempos.
"Good Looking Android," "Small Potatoes," "Creep" and "Little Screw" all invoke the atmospheric tension of Dolphy's 1964 masterpiece, complete with gnarled themes, intervallic solos and metrically abstruse rhythms. Unconventional arrangements, expansive dynamics and unpredictable shifts in rhythm prevent these tunes from settling into simulacrums of the past.
Expanding well beyond the Blue Note vibe, the unsettled chamber-esque ballad "Valerie" showcases Shelton's dulcet clarinet work, while "Nearby" and "Gather" both grow slowly from pensive ruminations into languorous epics. "Nearby" expands into a flurry of discordant activity reminiscent of the Art Ensemble of Chicago at their most lyrically effusive.
A promising debut, Rolldown is the 14th album in 482 Music's document Chicago series, and reveals Adasiewicz to be a new voice worthy of attention in that fertile scene.
Personnel: Jason Adasiewicz: vibraphone; Josh Berman: cornet; Aram Shelton: alto saxophone and clarinet; Jason Roebke: bass; Frank Rosaly: drums.