Jason Adasiewicz’s Sun Rooms

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Delmark DE 2012

During its history as an instrument for improvisation the vibraphone has been utilized two ways. Either the player approaches it like a tuned drum or he or she lets the mallets, bars and motor-drive become the equivalent of a metal piano. Extroverts such as Lionel Hampton and Terry Gibbs and any number of R&B percussion colorists excelled at the first method, while more cerebral stylists such as Walt Dickinson, Milt Jackson and most of the Northern European vibes players concentrated on the second.

Even though later variants of the latter low-key methodology have been the hallmarks of vibe-stylists over the past 30 years, Chicago’s Jason Adasiewicz is a throwback to more exuberant players. Working alongside the likes of saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, cornetist Rob Mazurek and with his own bands he provides a rhythmic backbone to many sonic forays. At the same time, as he proves on this stripped down trio session, spelled by bassist Nate McBride and drummer Mike Reed, he isn’t completely focused on hammering to the extent of ignoring harmonies.

A longtime associate of Ken Vandermark who has established himself on the Windy City scene over the past few years, McBride rarely steps forward. On this session in fact, he’s content with providing a solid walking bass line. Meanwhile Reed, who is probably part of more Chicago bands than even Adasiewicz, gigging with musicians ranging from elders such as trumpeter Art Holye to Mazurek and flutist Nicole Mitchell, has plenty of space for his intricate beats and patterns

If Spacer has a defining track, then it’s “Bees”. Distinguished by a repeated motif that spins initial resonating vibe percussion right intro downwards turning clacks, clanks and clatters from Reed’s drum set, it reaches a climax when additional metallic echoes issue from Adasiewicz’s instrument, pushed forward by rapid tremolo pops. Reed’s response is centred on rim shots while McBride cautiously walks to keep things balanced.

In contrast, the vibist’s percussive Hampton-like musical gregariousness gets a workout on the stop-time “Run Fly”, which erupts kinetically with flying mallets on his part and drags and flams from Reed. Eventually the two reach a détente and trade fours. “Bobbie” written by Dutch cornetist Eric Boeren is an example of Adasiewicz’s, and the band’s ballad style. With McBride delicately bowing and Reed working a shuffle beat, the melody slithers from Adasiewicz’s tuned bars, moving chromatically with emphasized but intermittent mallet pops.

Elsewhere the session is enlivened with each man contributing measured pointillist tinctures at certain junctures, especially when Adasiewicz tapers his instrument’s motor speed, resulting in expanding and quivering glissandi. The CD is also bookended by two brief vibe solos, where Adasiewicz’s instrumental command allows him to reference both Balinese and African idiophones.

If he maintains the same high musical standards exhibited here, the Chicago vibist will likely be added to the pantheon of influential vibraphone players. By taking adapting his own version of common vibraphone improvising tropes, he may go even further in a redefinition of the instrument’s playing style.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Solo One 2. Hi Touch 3. Run Fly 4. Pillow 5. The Volunteer 6. Bees 7. Bobbie 8. Diesel 9. Waiting in the Attic 10. Solo Two

Personnel: Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone); Nate McBride (bass) and Mike Reed (drums)