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Jason Adasiewicz: Rolldown

John Sharpe By

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Vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz has likely listened to a lot of Monk. Not that this adventurous quintet outing is another addition to the already crowded oeuvre of Monkian repertory, but more because the disjointed rhythms, odd suspensions, long tones and variable tempos echo the late pianist's angularity and obliqueness.

This set was recorded back in 2005, following a year's sabbatical during which Adasiewicz composed the seven pieces heard here (actually eight when you include the video only "Hide"), begging the question of how come it took so long to make it to disc. Starting out as primarily a drummer with the likes of Calexico, Adasiewicz has become a highly visible participant in the prolific Chicago scene, featuring in more than twenty bands, working with Rob Mazurek, Ken Vandermark and Nicole Mitchell among others.

Making up the front line in Adasiewicz's four year-old working band are frequent collaborators Josh Berman on cornet and Aram Shelton on reeds, while bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Frank Rosaly combine in an elastic and cohesive rhythm partnership. Such demarcations are redundant here, as Adasiewicz makes such judicious use of the instrumental resources at his disposal to create an almost orchestral sound where almost anyone can be leading the line or performing timekeeping duties in a variety of combinations. Uniting this diversity are Adasiewicz's thoughtful compositions which allow plentiful scope for structured improvisations amid the asymmetrical themes.

Testament to Adasiewicz's assertion that Berman is a key voice in his compositions are the cornetist's understated but intense soliloquies which stalk these pieces, meshing artfully with Shelton's agile alto and cool clarinet. Berman makes a particularly agitated and stinging contribution to "Hide," the interplay all the more appreciable for being visible. Whether trading rhythmic motifs with Adasiewicz, embellishing ensembles with textural invention, or just keeping time, Rosaly displays a depth of sensitivity belying his controlled strength. Roebke's arco adds density to the ensemble unisons, while his pizzicato moves effortlessly between pulse and punditry. And if the compositional acumen wasn't enough, Adasiewicz shimmers menacingly within the rich harmonic quilt, emerging to effervescent effect, particularly on the closer "Gather" and "Small Potatoes."

From the spacy cool of "Good Looking Android," or the post bop intensity and stop start bounce of "Little Screw," to the dreamlike rumination of "Nearby," the multi-sectional pieces are packed with event and dynamic contrast.

Rolldown is a superior entry in 482 Music's ongoing documentation of the Chicago scene and, after all this time, the follow up should be eagerly awaited. As Roebke says at the end of the video, "What kind of psycho wouldn't hire us for a job?"

Track Listing: Audio: Good Looking Android; Small Potatoes; Valerie; Creep; Nearby; Little Screw; Gather. Video: Hide.

Personnel: Jason Adasiewicz: vibraphone; Josh Berman: cornet; Aram Shelton: alto saxophone, clarinet; Jason Roebke: bass; Frank Rosaly: drums.

Title: Rolldown | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: 482 Music

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