Jason Roebke Octet | Constellation | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Jason Roebke Octet 

When: Sat., Nov. 8, 9:30 p.m. 2014
Price: $10, $5 in advance
With his precise intonation, woody tone, keen sense of time, and top-notch improvisational skills, bassist Jason Roebke is just the kind of player every bandleader wants—and as a result, he anchors so many Chicago-based ensembles that he rarely has time to lead one of his own. But this year he’s more than doubled his discography as a bandleader, releasing albums by the Jason Roebke Combination (a quartet) and the Jason Roebke Octet. High/Red/Center (Delmark) is the recorded debut of the latter group, which often had nine or ten members in its first year and rarely convenes these days because alto saxophonist Greg Ward lives in New York and trombonist Jeb Bishop lives in North Carolina. Leading seven musicians he often supports as a sideman, Roebke demonstrates his elegance as a composer and arranger, giving his simple, effective themes a gorgeous orchestral depth even when the front-line improvisations are abstract and dissonant; the leisurely ballad “Slow,” for example, glows with tender harmonies while Bishop, cornetist Josh Berman, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, and tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson spar using a variety of extended techniques. (The other two members are vibist Jason Adasiewicz and drummer Mike Reed.) The bluesy “Dirt Cheap” begins by recalling vintage Duke Ellington, but then Jackson and Ward’s pastel melodies open up into a garrulous profusion of polyphonic improvisation that summons the spirit of Charles Mingus. The hard-charging songs are infectious, but I prefer the ballads, especially “Ten Nights,” which Bishop opens with an extended solo that’s as delicate and beautiful as anything I’ve ever heard him play. —Peter Margasak

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