Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Jazz for heaven & earth


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Cerulean Landscape, Jason Robinson and Anthony Davis (Clean Feed)

Bi-coastal jazz saxophonist Jason Robinson, 35, an Assistant Professor of Music at Amherst College and former musician with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, seems to be blowing nonstop these days. No less than three albums that showcase the seemingly limitless range of his versatile musicianship have hit the literal and virtual shelves this fall.

Cerulean Landscape was recorded in Amherst, mixed in Southern California, and sports liner notes written in San Francisco. It features the fruits of Robinson's 12-year partnership with pianist and composer Anthony Davis, 59, himself a professor at UC San Diego. Given that Davis' oeuvre includes the opera X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X, which caused quite a stir in its 1986 premiere at New York City Opera, and the incidental music for the Broadway version of Tony Kushner's Angels in America, expectations are middle-of-the-road mush.

Surprise is the order of the day. The CD launches in an extremely relaxed, lyrical mood, then catches you off-guard with its frequent and unheralded shifts into high gear. On "Andrew," the music is initially discordant, then begins to bop along as it goes through a string of unexpected gear shifts. "Cerulean Seas and Veridian Skies," the last of the album's seven tracks, is equally unpredictable. Now in brighter mode – Robinson switches among soprano, alto, and tenor sax to achieve the coloring he seeks, and also throws in alto flute – the music opens itself wide to the blue beauty of nature's realm. Together, these men create a multi-hued, high-flying lyricism for the 21st century.

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