Keefe Jackson/Jason Adasiewicz

Rows and Rows
Delmark DE 5024

Like a spectacle featuring a monkey and a crab, collaboration between a reedist and a vibraphonist may seem aberrant. The woodwind’s multiplicity of keys puts more textures and tone on display in quicker time than the vibist’s strategy that depends on mallet pressure and motor speed. Despite that, there have been some memorable meetings in the past: John Coltrane and Milt Jackson, Sonny Rollins with the Modern Jazz Quartet and Stan Getz and Cal Tjader. Yet each of those instances had conventional rhythm section backing.

Tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist Keefe Jackson and vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, two young veterans of the Chicago scene, try something different here. Rows and Rows is a duo disc, with the two as alone as England is after Brexit. The results are mixed. While there are instances of poetry-like expressiveness from each, the see-saw balancing that evolves during the nine selections creates a sonic circumference they often can’t breech.

With the two operating like racing car drivers who must know just how far to push their engines to avoid spinning out of control, Jackson and Adasiewicz complete every road trip with timbral affiliations that keep the music grounded. Tracks can be hard and heavily vibrated such as “Questioned, Understood, Possessed”; understated, airy and with swinging free-form runs as on “Swap”, which alternates reed trills and irregular metal vibrations; or near-atonal as “Thunder Cooker”, where mid-range baritone sax bites leap to altissimo.

Unison explorations are also on the agenda, with a tune such as “Where's Mine” finding the two improvising like conjoined twins. Metal bar clangs and a luster in the bass clarinet tone contribute to a mellow dance-like motion kept contemporary with off-centre chalumeau slurs from Jackson. The two also know their history. In the slow-paced but not crawling tempo of “A Rose Heading”, one can sense a kinship to the Duke Ellington’s “The Single Petal of a Rose,” complete with vibe echoes that sound like orchestral bell pealing. “Canon from the Nothing Suite” is an off-handed bow to the MJQ’s mastery of such contrapuntal compositions. While the theme is gentlemanly and finally recapped, Adasiewicz’s hard and heavy smacks are more shirt-sleeved, hair-on-your-chest rugged than Milt Jackson demonstrated with the MJQ, while Keefe Jackson’s whistling snorts are more than even Rollins or Jimmy Giuffre would have attempted when paired with MJQ pianist and musical director John Lewis.

Drawbacks aside, this CD provides proof that improvisers with conviction and objectives can produce a notable disc, no matter the instrumentation.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Cabollo Ballo 2. Questioned, Understood, Possessed 3. Where's Mine 4. A Rose Heading 5. Swap 6. Rows and Rows 7. Putting It On, Taking It Off 8. Cannon from the Nothing Suite 9. Thunder Cooker

Personnel: Keefe Jackson (tenor saxophone and bass clarinet) and Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone)