Varmint is the second release from vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz's Rolldown, following its self-titled 2008 debut on 482 Music. It's clear, from this program, that Rolldown is not content to stay in one place; no mean feat, considering the extent to which this music pays homage to Blue Note's documentation of artists like Andrew Hill and Sam Rivers almost half a century ago.
The term homage is especially pertinent, as these performances don't merely flirt with the repertorial. Instead, they invoke visions of 1960s-era Blue Note, even as the players work toward setting out some personal wares. Nowhere is this more evident than Adasiewicz; his phrasing, perhaps inevitably, holding faint echoes of both Bobby Hutcherson in his prime and the sadly neglected Walt Dickerson. Still, it is entirely his own, and his deployment of reverb gives his work a particularly liquid quality. On "Hide," all sorts of temporal discontinuities lend the music a singular air; indeed, when bassist Jason Roebke walks, it's with all the panache of an intoxicated bank clerk on a half-day holiday.
It could be argued that the presence of Eric Dolphy and James Spaulding looms large over saxophonist Aram Shelton. He has, however, got his own thing going on, with the influence of John Tchicai about him as well, in the manner by which he fashions his contributions. As an improviser, he possesses the mind of a composer, such is the consideration he puts into his work; an impression exemplified by his work in the tricky waters of Andrew Hill's "The Griots" where, for all the speed and dexterity of his execution, there is an underlying air of consideration.
Comparing cornetist Josh Berman to the likes of Don Cherry, Mongezi Fezaeven Freddie Hubbard, on those all too infrequent occasions when he recorded on cornetonly serves the purpose of positioning him within a much broader continuum. His work on "Varmint" demonstrates that the cornet is the instrument on which he best expresses himself. In an odd way, its brightness suits his simultaneously bright yet diffident musical personality, with the leader showing what a singular accompanist he is.
Green Grass; Varmint; Dagger; Hide; I Hope She is Awake; Punchbug; The Griots.
Jason Adasiewicz: vibraphone; Josh Berman: cornet; Aram Shelton: alto saxophone, clarinet; Jason Roebke: bass; Frank Rosaly: drums.
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