Building on the inspiration of the classic Blue Note albums of the mid 1960's by the likes of Bobby Hutcherson and Sam Rivers, vibraphonist and composer Jason Adasiewicz leads a forward thinking ensemble consisting of Josh Berman on cornet, Aram Shelton on alto saxophone and clarinet, Jason Roebke on bass and Frank Rosaly drums. "Green Grass" opens the album, with shimmering and probing vibes combining the drums to make a fertile playing field for the horns to improvise over. Adasiewicz's vibes recall the work of other progressives on the instrument like Khan Jamal and Walt Dickerson, and he gets many different types of shading and texture from exploring the full possibility of the instrument. Andrew Hill's composition "Griots" is the perfect jazz vehicle for this band, with plenty of open space for fine soloing and ensemble playing. Horns strut out on the title track "Varmint" chased by vibes and drums like a farmer chasing a pesky cartoon critter. The music is complex and often shifts gears, but it never seems to overwhelm the musicians. Berman takes a strong fiery solo, and Shelton takes a strong and meaty solo of his own. "Dagger" and "Punchbag" have Shelton switching to clarinet, which is an appealing sound when paired with vibes. This songs are taken at a wide open mid-tempo feel, and feature dexterous bass work from Roebke. "Hide" has a fast and quirky melody and some deft bowed bass, before giving way to a very potent alto saxophone solo. "I Hope She's Awake" slows things down to a ballad tempo, with atmospheric vibes and thick probing bass. Although the music may be influenced by the open ended hard bop of the early 1960's the musicians are far from slavish imitators, the music on this album is fresh and thoughtful and the band has used it to make an excellent statement. Another fine example of how Chicago is starting to rival New York as a center for progressive jazz. Varmint - amazon.com
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