Jason Robinson

January 16, 2011

Jason RobinsonAn assistant professor of Music at Amherst College, critically acclaimed saxophonist and composer Jason Robinson has just released three concurrent albums showcasing an enormous breadth of creative work: The Two Faces of Janus (Cuneiform), featuring a New York-based ensemble that includes Drew Gress, Liberty Ellman, George Schuller, Marty Ehrlich and Rudresh Mahanthappa; Cerulean Landscape (Clean Feed), featuring the long-time collaboration of Robinson and acclaimed pianist and composer Anthony Davis; and Cerberus Reigning (Accretions), the much anticipated second installment of the “Cerberus” trilogy, featuring Robinson’s extraordinary solo electro-acoustic music.

Robinson now has six albums under his own name, seven albums with collaborative or co-led groups, and has appeared on more than 30 other recordings. He co-leads Cosmologic and the Cross Border Trio and has performed or recorded with a wide range of musicians including Peter Kowald, George Lewis, Anthony Davis, Marty Ehrlich, Toots and the Maytals, Groundation, Elijah Emanuel and the Revelations, Mark Dresser, John Russell, Roger Turner, Gerry Hemingway, Nathan Hubbard, and the San Francisco Mime Troupe, among others. Robinson has performed at festivals and prominent venues in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe.

1. Apex – Rudresh Mahanthappa Bunky Green

This multi-generational collaboration features several of my favorite leading innovators. From a horn perspective, it’s amazing to hear two strikingly different yet complimentary approaches to angularity and chromaticism.

2. 1983 – Flying Lotus

What started as a journey into Flying Lotus’ latest release, Cosmogramma (2010), took me back to his debut 2006 release. His grooves are fluid and organic and his use of otherworldly sounds captivates the imagination. Science fiction sound experimentalism for the next hip hop generation.

3. Jíbaro – Miguel Zenón

Even though he has newer releases, I’m continually drawn back to this one. Something about the hocketed mixed-meter melody of the opening track…

4. The Complete Science Fiction Sessions – Ornette Coleman

I’m a huge fan of Ornette’s music. Among other reasons, the surreal vocals of Asha Puthil make Science Fiction one of my favorite Ornette albums. Given the rich melodicism in his music, it’s surprising more vocalists haven’t been in his groups.

5. Nuba – Jeanne Lee, Andrew Cyrille and Jimmy Lyons

Speaking of vocalists… It doesn’t get much better than Jeanne Lee for me. She has an absolutely captivating voice and her improvisatory interactions with Lyons and Cyrille on this album are dynamite.

6. Saturn Sings – Mary Halvorson Quintet

While everyone on the album sounds great, I’m particularly drawn to Halvorson’s compositional and improvisational approaches. Lyrical yet disjointed, simple yet complex, calm yet aggressive. I admire music that balances these seemingly disparate dimensions.

7. Porto Novo – Marion Brown

Marion Brown’s recent passing has led me back to some of his earlier recordings. A singular sound on the alto saxophone, captured here in the midst of the “new thing” with two Dutch legends, drummer Han Bennink and bassist Maarten Altena.

8. Black Saint and the Sinner Lady – Charles Mingus

I listen to this album-length piece on a monthly basis for compositional inspiration. The low-brass writing alone… What more can I say?

9. Metasaxophone Colossus – Matthew Burtner

The saxophone has never been a stable concept for me. The sound and language(s) of the horn are always transforming (compare, for example, Coleman Hawkins to John Coltrane). Burtner extends his sound through the use of special hardware and software. Breathtaking results.

10. The Greatest Hits of the Skatalites Featuring Tommy McCook – The Skatalites

I’ve been interested in ways that jazz horn players outside of the United States have influenced new forms of popular music. Jamaican saxophonist Tommy McCook is a great example of this. Hugely influenced by Coltrane, yet foundational in Jamaican music of the 1960s and ’70s.

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