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Jason Adasiewicz’s Rolldown: Varmint (Cuneiform Rune 292)

United States
“Vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz is emerging as one of the most interesting bandleaders and composers in modern creative improvised jazz” – All Music Guide

“…kaleidoscopic compositions, chock-full of references to thorny post-bop, swing easily and joyfully.” – Time Out

”The sons of the sons of sons of the Chicago sound are expanding an ever mushrooming jazz scene. …Rolldown…can be described as the 21st century’s version of 1960s new thing or what would Ornette do with an Eric Dolphy and a vibraphone. …This total commitment to a group sound makes Rolldown a special band…and Adasiewicz a revelation as a new jazz composer.” – All About Jazz

“Chicago continues to be a hothouse for creative improvised music. Musicians a generation younger than Ken Vandermark…are currently making their mark. …Enter vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz….Adasiewicz and his colleagures absorb the basic tenants put forth on those Sixties vinyl classics and place a 21st century personal spin on them.” – Downbeat

5th October 2009 — Jason Adasiewicz’s Rolldown is one of the brightest, hottest, and most coherent and cohesive new constellations to emerge in recent years from Chicago’s ever-expanding jazz galaxy. This jazz quintet is composed of some of the most prolific and talented young players on the scene, including Jason Adasiewicz [a-dah-shev-its] on vibraphone, Josh Berman on cornet, Aram Shelton on alto saxophone and clarinet, Jason Roebke on bass and Frank Rosaly on drums. Under Adasiewicz’s leadership, Rolldown’s sound combines Blue Note’s classic, avant-leaning ‘60s albums with contemporary drive, swing, energy, and attack. Adasiewicz interweaves colors and threads from several generations of Chicago’s avant jazz heritage into new, 21st century compositions that are brought alive by his players’ remarkably tight ensemble work. Nowhere are Adsiewicz’s compositional skills and Rolldown’s breathtaking ensemble work more evident than on Varmint, Rolldown’s second album and first release on Cuneiform, In the words of Peter Margasak, who wrote the liner notes for Varmint: “Adasiewicz has a way of making every group he works with sound better, but hearing him direct his own combo with his own tunes – well, that’s super burnin’”.

A key member of Chicago’s jazz and improvised music scene, Jason Adasiewicz is quickly gaining widespread recognition through his extensive work as a sideman as well as such high-profile honors as his strong showing in DownBeat’s 2007, 2008 and 2009 “Critics’ Poll – Rising Star” Vibes category. Adasiewicz is a member of more than 20 working bands, including Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra, the Nicole Mitchell Quartet, Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly, the Guillermo Gregorio Trio, and Ken Vandermark’s Index Orkest.

Schooled as a jazz drummer at DePaul University, he left college in his junior year to join the indie-rock world. Adasiewicz toured— primarily as a drummer—with songwriters Edith Frost and Simon Joyner, as well as with arty rock groups like the Pinetop Seven, Manishevitz, Central Falls and Calexico. Pinetop Seven, an alt-country band, gave Adasiewicz the space and encouragement to experiment with new instruments, including the vibraphone. “It was part of the percussion family where you could beat the shit out of it,” he says with a laugh. “But I was also fascinated with [its] melody.”

Adasiewicz’s move into Chicago’s jazz and improvised music scene was initially fired by the music he discovered – Lester Young, Duke Ellington, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Sun Ra – while working at the city’s legendary Jazz Record Mart. Seeing the Vandermark 5 for the first time, at a club where his rock bands played, was a revelation to Adasiewicz, and key turning point in his early career. “I fell in love with how these Chicago musicians continued and evolved jazz tradition,” Adaseiwicz remembers, “and decided my primary focus would be to contribute to the scene.” This jazz felt vibrant and alive to him, making him realize that there was more to the music than what was taught in school. Adasiewicz formed a jazz quartet called Andiamo during the 1990s and began composing tunes. Adasiewicz formed his Chicago-based jazz quintet, Rolldown, in 2004, while living in Madison, Wisconsin during his girlfriend’s (now wife) Ph.D studies. Absent from Chicago’s rock scene, he focused on composing for Rolldown and refining his vibes, traveling back frequently to rehearse and perform with his quintet. When Adasiewicz moved back to Chicago in 2005, he and his group went into the studio to record their first album, the self-titled Rolldown. Released in 2008 by Chicago record label 482Music, Rolldown prompted DownBeat to state, “Vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz has become so ubiquitous in Chicago that it comes as a bit of a shock to realize that this is the first record to come out under his own name.” The CD was widely acclaimed by the music press; All Music Guide noted that “Adasiewicz has assembled a quintet of astounding musical proporation and depth, playing his tricky music that seems to have no limits of imagination, wit or wisdom.” All About Jazz noted that “Rolldown is a superior entry in 482 Music’s ongoing documentation of the Chicago scene…the follow-up should be eagerly awaited.”

For Rolldown’s second recording, Adasiewicz signed to Cuneiform, a Washington DC–based label with an international presence. Called Varmint, this CD release features six new compositions by Adasiewicz and a tune written by jazz legend Andrew Hill, performed by Adasiewicz (vibraphone), Josh Berman (cornet,) Aram Shelton (alto saxophone and clarinet), Jason Roebke (bass) and Frank Rosaly (drums), It also features liner notes written by Chicago-based jazz critic Peter Margasak. The music on Varmint encapsulates the essence of new Chicago jazz: informed and inspired by that city’s avant-garde heritage, this new music welcomes modern popular influences while paying tribute to the past, and celebrates notions of ensemble and community. Swinging and accessible but also very modern and forward-looking, Varmint would appeal to those who are fans of such jazz legends as Jackie McLean, Bobby Hutcherson, Andrew Hill, Grachan Moncur III, Eric Dolphy, as well as other, newer, post-bop influenced artists in jazz today. Sonically superb, Varmint was recorded in August 2008 by engineer Mark Haines at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studios in Chicago.

Jason Adasiewicz’s Rolldown recently performed at the 2009 Chicago Jazz Festival, attended by thousands of jazz fans. The quintet, which performs frequently in Chicago, will be reaching new audiences via upcoming performances and tours to coincide with Varmint’s release.
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