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Jason Robinson: Cerberus Reigning

Mark F. Turner By

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Legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius' classic "3 Views of a Secret" could adequately describe saxophonist Jason Robinson's three incredibly distinct recordings. Concurrent 2010 releases include The Two Faces of Janus (Cuneiform), with a tremendous ensemble featuring Drew Gress, Liberty Ellman, George Schuller, Marty Ehrlich and Rudresh Mahanthappa; and the more intimate, but equally daring duo collaboration, Cerulean Landscape (Clean Feed), with pianist Anthony Davis. The final piece to the trifecta, Cerberus Reigning , is an electro-acoustic solo project, with Robinson's saxophones and flute augmented through computer software and electronics to create some of the most unusual and arresting tracks in recent memory.

Cerberus Reigning is the second in a trilogy of recordings with Robinson exploring the intricacies of solo performance. A teacher at the Music Department at Amherst College, Robinson is first and foremost a fearlessly skilled instrumentalist. The opening salvo of "Broken Seals" is like a razor—cutting and artistically sharp in the vein of Eric Dolphy and Albert Ayler—before the software kicks in to create music that is otherworldly and machinelike.

There's both the weird and the wonderful here, as Robinson manipulates things in real-time. Splicing a horn solo here, looping a section there, and exchanging real sounds with processed ones, Robinson uses self-created software dubbed "Synchronous Aether," exhibiting artificial intelligence-like qualities that interact with his playing. Tracks such as "The Betrayal of Charon" contain enough theory and imagination to create sound-creations that are like settings in a science fiction novel.

Robinson's warm alto flute mixes with extraordinary designs in "Syrynx at the Edge of Nightfall" and "The Inner Wave," creating soothing oscillations, while there are unsettling processed noises in "Among Goliaths," where Robinson's horn sounds like an out of tune squeeze box, or bubbling liquid in "Rising Tide for Humanity." The title track and "The New Resistance Unveiled" are two of the most satisfying: the former bolting out, with Robinson soloing freely, before entering into a cool groove-loop and interesting sonic layers; the latter incorporating strange analog-synth sounds, but also feeling organic, as the acoustics of Robinson's tenor intermingles with the tech.

The lines between solo performance and experimentation are blurred and left to interpretation, but one thing is clear: Cerberus Reigning is a fascinating display of what an artist can do with a little creativity, true musicianship, and some technical ingenuity.

Track Listing: Broken Seals; The Betrayal of Charon (Synchronous Aether); Syrynx at the Edge of Nightfall; Stillness Shattered; Hope is Lost (Synchronous Aether); The Inner Wave; Cerberus Reigning; A Darkness So Piercing; Serpentine Gaze; Among Goliaths; Rising Tide for Humanity; Some Shall Fall; Syrynx Song for the Fallen (Synchronous Aether); The New Resistance Unveiled; Smoldering Ruins; The Final Horizon.

Personnel: Jason Robinson: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, alto flute, computer.

Title: Cerberus Reigning | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Accretions


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