Jason Adasiewicz – Sun Rooms (Delmark)
KLANG – Other Doors (Allos Documents)
Aram Shelton’s Arrive – There Was… (Clean Feed)
Giving up the drums to take up the vibraphone is like quitting basketball to try out for the volleyball team. It seems to be a choice that limits one’s options. But this is just what Jason Adasiewicz did, purposely taking up a fringe instrument and mastering it in a fringe musical category, helping restore the vibes to its former glory.
Sun Rooms is the self-titled CD of a trio completed by Chicago luminaries Nate McBride (bass) and Mike Reed (drums). While each instrument has its individual moments, the strength of the music is found in the interplay, Reed zipping brisk rolls off his snare, McBride bowing feverishly or walking his bass with aggressive intent and Adasiewicz striking the vibes to create resonating harmonies. You can hear the physicality in his playing in the way he holds back his mallets until the final second and in the ringing overtones that move through the air after he strikes. The tunes are relatively compact yet tightly composed, the band’s sound harkening back to economical BlueNote classics like Out to Lunch or, better still, Point of Departure. Sun Rooms offers similar disjointed harmonies, unconventional melodies and layered rhythms that together generate a cohesive blend.
The backstory to Klang’s Other Doors tells how clarinetist James Falzone was approached to interpret the music of Benny Goodman for a Chicago jazzfestival. The young musician had his misgivings about reliving elements of the clarinet’s past. It’s hard to tell if Falzone continues to distance himself from Goodman’s legacy but it’s a pity if he does because the contemporary takes on some classic Goodman small group sides are the best thing about Other Doors. Divided equally between new arrangements and new pieces, Falzone and his group of Chicago allstars (Adasiewicz, bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Tim Daisy, augmented here and there by Josh Berman, Jeb Bishop, Keefe Jackson and Fred Lonberg-Holm), the players are melodic and joyful on the Goodman tunes and relatively abstract and improvisatory on the originals. Simultaneously reverent and progressive, Other Doors is an impressive combination of practiced virtuosity and spontaneous creativity.
Yet another release to spring from the incredibly fertile and cross-pollinating jazz scene of Chicago, Arrive is a band comprised of Klang’s rhythm section supporting alto saxist Aram Shelton. On There Was… the tunes may be Shelton’s, but it’s Adasiewicz as often as not taking the lead. Whether it’s with Daisy’s brushes on “Frosted”, Jason Roebke’s bass on “Golden” or producing the hazy nightclub-of-the-imagination atmospherics of “Lost”, Adasiewicz’ hits his vibes hard and lets the metallic soundwaves reverberate in your ears. The action shot of the band on the inside cover tells the tale of this group’s barely contained fierceness: Daisy locked in, Roebke swinging, Shelton’s horn rising ever so slightly upward and Adasiewicz in a defensive stance, about to pounce on the vibes with both hands.