I’ve loved the sound of the vibraphone at least as far back as Twin Peaks. (Who can forget Audrey’s dance at the Double R, one of the coolest scenes in television history? Isn’t it too dreamy?) From there I moved on to George Shearing’s classic quintet and the way he used the vibes, and then I really got into Bobby Hutcherson. I can’t remember exactly when I first heard Jason’s stuff, except that I went to the Jazz Record Mart all the time and his music was surely in the air. In 2011 I interviewed him for Chicagoist. During our talk we discussed the propensity of Chicago jazz to swing, no matter how far out it gets. “The concept of ‘Why does everything swing?’ I think that’s just—for all of us, that’s just the natural thing to do on all these tunes. There was one tune we really tried not to swing with. We were trying this sort of complicated ‘straight A’ set. In the end it was just like, no, this thing wants to swing just like everything else. I guess the decision to swing is sort of within the band, too. A lot of my phrasing is swung. I think a lot of all of our phrasing is swung, too.”
That’s one of the things I like most about his music. It can get pretty wild and abstract, but he always gives the listener something to hook into. He can swing when you least expect it, or give you a beautiful melody out of thin air, or even communicate a dry sense of humor.
A regular at the Hideout, the Hungry Brain, and plenty of other venues around town, not to mention an in-demand sideman on dozens of local recordings, Jason is a Chicagoan through and through. When I started thinking about music for the soundtrack of Roy’s World he was one of the first people to pop into my head, so I’m really excited. I know he’s going to channel the special mood of that time and place into music that’ll knock our socks off.