If entropy is a scientific theory that describes how all things in nature tend towards a gradual decline and disorder, then Jason Roebke
's Octet is the anti-entropy. His second octet release Cinema Spiral
and the previous High/Red/Center (Delmark, 2014) make order out of the impression of chaos.
Such is the enticement of jazz.
It always has been. Ever since Louis Armstrong
diverted from the sheet music, great jazz musicians, improvisers, leave the score behind, or use it as a skeleton to build anew. This is the strength of Roebke's vision, and it's much easier to do in a small setting. In an octet it is a thing of beauty.
Credit here goes to bassist Roebke's choice of familiar musicians from the Chicago scene, saxophonists Greg Ward
and Keefe Jackson
, bass clarinetist Jason Stein
, trumpeter Josh Berman
, trombonist Jeb Bishop
, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz
and drummer Mike Reed
. Like Charles Mingus
, he chooses musicians for their unique approach, but, unlike Mingus, he gives his players less tether. Maybe that is because each player is a fine leader in his own right. You can find Roebke in Ward's 10 Tongues, Berman's trio, Reed's People, Places & Things, Stein's Locksmith Isidore, Jackson's quartet, Adasiewicz's Rolldown and various ensembles with Bishop.
Take "People Laughing," which opens with hysterics, then evolves into a coherent statement under, first the firm bass lines of Roebke, then the cooperative explorations of the players. The explorations of the piece, first dense then almost minimalist improvisation, grow into an organic being. Pieces and parts, trombone and vibraphone, fitting the pieces together. This robust sound flows into "Waiting," a fully orchestrated composition, and the hummable earworm "L'acmé." The joy here is the leader's ability to allow these fine player's off leash. The combination of yowling saxophones and snarling bass clarinet, ringing vibraphone, and skittering trumpet played over the march of drums and the ever steady pulse of Roebke makes for limitless possibilities.
Looking directly into the camera; Focusing; For a Moment; Getting High; People Laughing; Waiting; L'acmé
Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Keefe Jackson: tenor, sopranino saxophones, contrabass clarinet; Jason Stein: bass clarinet; Josh Berman: trumpet; Jeb Bishop: trombone; Jason Adasiewicz: vibes; Jason Roebke: bass; Mike Reed: drums.