Doing something unique with the vibraphone is a tough road to walk, especially if one is a serious musician. Notoriously difficult to play with respect to the instrument’s lack of emotional variety, it’s no surprise its best practitioners have been those of the swing world like Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson and Terry Gibbs, or more modern ensemble-tied visionaries like Mike Mainieri, Steve Nelson or Stefon Harris. Truly original voices, such as Gary Burton’s, are very rare in this world.
Add to this pantheon or great vibraphonists the name of Jason Adasiewicz. His multi-nominations for “Rising Star Vibist” in Downbeat polls as well as being named “2010 Mallet Instrumentalist of the Year” by the Jazz Journalist Association are marks confirming his high stature among the critical community. However, those looking for good-old-music should turn away now, for Adasiewicz has his own unique vision and manner of approaching this most unrelentingly stingy aluminum-barred instrument.
Kansas born but Chicagoland area raised, Adasiewicz attended DePaul University but really found his footing playing in groups like Rob Mazurek's Exploding Star Orchestra, Mike Reed's Loose Assembly, Berman's Old Idea, Shelton's Arrive and the Nicole Mitchell Quartet. On this recording Adasiewicz is joined by bassist Nate McBride, who has worked with free and forward-thinking saxophonist Ken Vandermark, and drummer Mike Reed, who has worked with Josh Abrams, Brian Anderson, David Boykin, Nicole Mitchell and Jeff Parker.
Taking musical concepts and finding a way through them, piece by piece, is perhaps the best way to describe the music contained on Sun Rooms; they work out music more than play it. The influence of Sun Ra, late Eric Dolphy and late John Coltrane, especially on the composition “Rose Garden,” is undeniable. The music on each composition is free in the sense these feeling musicians can move at any direction at any moment. Their totally empathetic and tied-in-emotional-response to their how they will approach each composition’s concepts places this group at the forefront of, along with almost any group in which Paul Motion is a member, the best forward-thinking groups of the day.
This music incorporates swing in the same manner Dave Douglas’ music swings, in both cases the musicians start from a solidly foundational jazz background yet find new ways to incorporate this into their musical strata. Even when the music is most far afield, as at times on “Off My Back Jack,” one still hears jazz’s history radiating out, it just happens to be taken from the last 50 years of jazz’s history and not from the first 50.
To be honest, there will be many listeners who will have trouble finding an access point for this music, even on the Duke Ellington standard "Warm Valley," but the work is well worth the effort.