Jason Adasiewicz’s Rolldown – Varmint

Jason Adasiewicz's Rolldown – Varmint

Without being far too cliché, there is a strong significance in jazz music and its roots. For many, it’s a forgotten genre that seems to get muddled behind classical or blues, or whatever other genre you’ve recently ignored. And yet, it’s at the cornerstone of every heartbeat, simply because of its sprawling nature. The solos, the melodies, the swings, the bossa novas, the sambas, the improvisation and goodness gracious, the rhythm section, are all in there in one shape or form. Fortunately, there are still true acts in pursuit of presenting this astounding genre.

Jason Adasiewicz’s Rolldown provides such sustenance with a quintet of talented musicians. While Adasiewicz employs his skill as a vibraphonist and composer, each member is tightly wound within the center of expression. And Varmint, an album that neither explodes in your face nor washes away the color, is a traditionally rooted album with quirky, unique touches. This Rolldown may just be the kind of aesthetic choice you were looking for while you pondered the latest greats from Adderley and Rollins.

The title track, alone, fully represents what Adasiewicz is capable of. His vibes dance in the background and he embraces Aram Shelton’s gifted saxophone playing by featuring the sax player on both the melody and solo sections. Often, Adasiewicz will creep in for a small solo and each member is not only heard, but felt with every consistent approach but it’s the band’s overall sound that remains remarkable. Here, the solos are driven by a pulsating bass and tap-heavy drum but when the trumpet and sax converge, Adasiewicz is the featured man. Music like this sounds ridiculously easy to make but that’s not due to the actual challenge but rather, in how convincingly effortless talented musicians make it all appear.

At times recalling the old sounds of what Blue Note recordings presented and other times, twisting notes and pitches into a literal rolldown, Adasiewicz’ and Co. apply their own kindred style into the music. While Adasiewicz mostly stays back, allowing for his bandmates to jump in and around him, he’s the main force behind it all. And although this isn’t the kind of music Benny Goodman’s bands made, the earnest spirit behind Varmint is an elusively creative animal – a rabbit if you will.

There’s a fair amount of talk to be made about the fact that Adasiewicz is a drummer by initiation turned vibraphonist. A percussionist can either be classically trained on pitched instruments before moving onto a drum and vice-versa but you never except for a drummer to come onto the vibes and be such an expert at them. The way they are struck – everything from their rhythm and flow – is the work of a master craftsmen. But get this, the magic comes from the melodies: two part harmonies, counter-melodies and even block chords are all finely delivered. It’s one thing to have tempo and style down but to have a strong ear for melody is another feat on its own.

There’s playfulness, tenderness and above all, fierce musicianship on Varmint. On a purely sonic level, there is a lot to be said for jazz that still holds on to the past as if it knows its vitality. “I Hope She is Awake” conveys a chillingly quiet trumpet with forebodingly low tones being whispered from the clarinet and its ripened to the root by exceptional craft. Moments like that are hard to come by, fortunately Jason Adasiewicz’s Rolldown has gathered enough of them onto one album to temper the appetite, for now.

“Hide” by Jason Adasiewicz’s Rolldown

Cuneiform Records