Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Jason Robinson Tiresian Symmetry Cuneiform 2012

An open ended controlled sonic fury in an eclectic yet oddly accessible setting has saxophonist Jason Robinson blowing smoke...literally!

Tiresian Symmetry is the free big band type sound or sonic tale of blind prophet Tiresias and how he was both blessed and cursed by the gods experiencing life both as a man and a woman while living for hundreds of years. Robinson does not rehash the story he instead gathers a formidable jazz collective to explore the narrative from an improvisational jazz context. In short, a free jazz blowing session where your mind is free to explore the story and you as the listener chart your own course and write your own conclusion. Heavy stuff at the end of the day!

The high octane sound scape seemingly revolves around drummers George Schuller and Ches Smith. Within this mosaic of sound one can find bits of brilliant texture contributed by tuba player Marcus Rojas, bassist Drew Gress and multi-instrumentalist Bill Lowe handling both tuba and bass trombone. This unconventional instrumentation add pops of color and ubiquitous shading that is eerily reminiscent of the larger big band sound more closely associated with Broadway. Reed players JD Parran and Marty Ehrlich along with Robinson and guitarist Liberty Ellman play fast and loose with the harmonic intensity with shifting meter and a sense of melodic urgency again more closely associated with large ensembles of a more theatrical nature.

In a sense, Tiresian Symmetry is a follow up to the previous Cuneiform release The Two Faces of Janus which is another project centered around Greek Mythology and the free improvisational setting. "Stratum" opens with an articulated free big band meets West Side Story intensity and the unique ebb and flow of this beautifully constructed work begins from there. "Radiate" dials the dynamics back slightly while pushing the harmonic envelope of richness and individuality that few large ensembles are allowed to experience. "Elbow Grease" is a high octane blistering smoker showing if a chain is only as strong as the weakest link, one would be hard pressed to find a weak link here.

This formidable cast of characters are an all star band yet somewhat relegated to the musical island of misfit toys. Constructing their escape and building their own sonic bridge is left up to the listener in a dramatic work that at times toys with the cerebral while attacking on a visceral level with as much intensity as a large ensemble can muster.

Jazz food for the mind, a stirring work that should have a great many taking a second look at saxophonist/composer Jason Robinson!

Tracks: Stratum 3; Tiresian Symmetry; Radiate; Saros; Elbow Grease Introduction; Elbow Grease; Corduroy; Cosmolographie.

Personnel: Jason Robinson: tenor saxophone, alto flute, soprano sax; JD Parran: alto clarinet, contra bass clarinet, tenor sax; Marty Ehrlich: alto sax, bass clarinet, c flute; Marcus Rojas: tuba; Bill Lowe: tuba, bass trombone; Liberty Ellman: guitar; Drew Gress: bass; George Schuller: drums; Ches Smith: drums, glockenspiel.