Bassist Jason Roebke in musical conversation | Bleader

Bassist Jason Roebke in musical conversation


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It's no secret that bass players don't get enough respect. Most jazz groups depend on the bassist as the structural anchor, tracing out the chord changes and keeping time. Jason Roebke does this about as well as anyone in the Chicago jazz scene, and he fulfills this role in countless ensembles. He even leads and writes the tunes for his own terrific +Octet—named thusly because it always contains more than eight members—yet even there he rarely steps out to grab the spotlight. He serves the ensemble, the selfless role traditionally required of the jazz bassist. But he's a terrific improviser, and he rarely squanders the space he gets in the various combos he's a member of. Roebke recently released Panoramic (Not Two), a sublime duo recording with Berlin-based reedist Tobias Delius (known best in these parts as a member of Amsterdam's ICP Orchestra), where his entire performance is improvised.

The record was made in April 2011 during a tour stop in Chicago by ICP, and the musicians clearly locked in during the session. The duos cover plenty of stylistic ground—there's the propulsive, swinging flutters of the opening track "Cuttlefish," which you can hear below; the breathy, supple lyricism on the brief "G-Bug"; and the restrained turbulence and melancholy of "No Night." But the most rewarding quality of the music is the transparent rapport the musicians share. The phrasing of each player—in all contexts—is often marked by an appealing, tension-creating choked quality, where the flow of a given line tangles up, slackens, and loses momentum, as if the musician gets lost in the sound he's producing. But the ebb never saps the larger construction of the given piece. Instead, each musician manages to gather himself quickly, providing a dramatic whoosh of relief when the linear flow is restored and gets back on track. Each player displays quicksilver adaptation when those gnarled detours arise, either uncorking a more fluid line in contrast, or unleashing a blast of energy to pull the other forward.

Roebke will appear on Wednesday at the Hideout as part of an improvising quartet with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, keyboardist Jim Baker, and the Norwegian drummer Stale Liavik Solberg.

Today's playlist:

Fredrik Nordström, On Purpose (Caprice)
Ali Akbar Moradi and Bahar Movahed, Goblet of Eternal Light (Traditional Crossroads)
Nat Adderley, Autobiography (Atlantic, Japan)
Billy Martin, Starlings (Tzadik)
Zani Diabaté & Les Héritiers, Tientalaw (Sterns)

Peter Margasak writes about jazz every Friday.