The Chicago jazz/improvised music scene is legendary, whether the topic concerns the AACM school or more recent experimenters. Drawing upon the inspiration the past and local legends like Fred Anderson, Hal Russell and more recently, Ken Vandermark, the second and third waves consist of an amazingly diverse and invigorating talent pool, now emerging as impressive musicians with a heap of potential.
The three musicians of Jason Roebke’s Rapid Croche are part of this vibrant scene and play in a variety of ensembles. For instance, bassist Jason Roebke plays in the eclectic Tigermilk, in Fred Lonberg-Holm’s Fred Katz tribute project, and with Terminal 4; while reedist Aram Shelton and drummer Tim Daisy play together in Dragons 1976, and both work with Vandermark in a number of recorded and unrecorded groups, including Vandermark’s most recent large collective, the Crisis Ensemble.
This particular conglomeration has been playing together for over two years. This disc is their debut, and as a result of their extensive shared experience, the musicians handle the free-flowing, loose nature of the eight Roebke compositions in a seamless fashion. Rather than being a torrential blast through and through, these pieces concentrate on diversity. However, for the most part, the approach favors flowing subtleties and spacious, textural exploration.
The album’s opening cut, “Please” is a good sample of what to expect, with Roebke’s rubbery bass setting the pace for Shelton’s wiry clarinet, eventually with Daisy and Roebke locking into the compositional structures. Next, the funky swing of “Sensor” indicates a different slant, with Shelton’s tart-toned alto saxophone slowly moving over the Roebke-Daisy groove, while “Any American” is a dark-tinged ballad where Shelton’s murky tone is especially poignant against Roebke’s melancholy bass and Daisy’s slowly brimming waves. Perhaps the most diverse track, “Whatever You Think Is Beautiful,” shows the group exploring territory tread by the AACM, as Shelton’s clarinet and Roebke’s arco match one another over Daisy’s gradually evolving malletwork.
While it is rare for these musicians to go full tilt, “It’s Enough” presents freewheeling fervor mixed with typically low-key moments, lead by Shelton’s spiky alto and the tightly written Daisy-Roebke riffs. While Roebke’s limber bass playing is certainly the key to this record’s success, the crafty rhythmic interplay of “Like You Thought It Might Be” and the delicious tender arco abilities displayed on “Just Before It Starts” demonstrate the talents that put Roebke at the forefront of the Chicago scene. The group ends with “Northern Cross,” a thoughtful duet by Roebke and Shelton (on clarinet) that eventually brings Daisy back into the fold for the slow moving ebbs of energy that surface throughout this impressive debut.
This record is the kind where the collective’s quiet intensity and sharp interactions will hit you when you least expect it. These are names to watch and hopefully, there will be plenty more after this inaugural step.
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