WORKROOM 2024 Resident Artist Spotlight: Jason Roebke


As CAPE teaching artist, Jason Roebke has taught at multiple schools in the after school program, at Lake View High School in the Artist/Researcher Partners program, and Nash Elementary School in the Responsive Arts in School Education (RAISE) program.

The diversity of Jason Roebke’s musical associations make him one of the most sought after bassists, composers, and educators in Chicago and beyond. He composes music that is extreme in its pairing of silence and explosive gestures. His music is rooted in jazz and takes inspiration from experimental music, noise, and improvisation. Solo performance and a duo with dancer Ayako Kato are also at the forefront of his creative activities. As a double bassist, his playing is intensely physical, audacious, and sparse. The Chicago Reader described his work as “a carefully orchestrated rummage through a hardware store.” Roebke studied privately with saxophonist and composer Roscoe Mitchell as well as legendary double bass pedagogue Stuart Sankey. In 2009, he was awarded the Fellowship in Music Composition from the Illinois Arts Council. Roebke tours widely in the US and Europe.

Jason’s latest album Four Spheres was released in October 2023 by Corbett vs. Dempsey. On this recording he leads a new quartet, featuring his original compositions and a stellar lineup. The music, which was brilliantly recorded at Steve Albini’s legendary Electrical Audio and expertly mixed and mastered by Alex Inglizian at Experimental Sound Studio, is performed by veteran reed player Edward Wilkerson Jr., whose own bands Eight Bold Souls and Shadow Vignettes were among the great ensembles of eighties/nineties Chicago, extending the AACM tradition and spotlighting Wilkerson’s sensitive improvising. Here, wielding tenor saxophone and alto clarinet, Wilkerson is a commanding – but also supremely collaborative – voice, joining the younger pianist Mabel Kwan and drummer Marcus Evans. 

Jason’s scores are rich and flexible, but they concentrate on exploring multifarious ways of stopping, something that’s been a feature of the bassist’s own improvisation for decades. Investigating the interrelationships between flow and cessation, the quartet is at once organic and halting, Roebke and Evans playing together with great assurance, but occasional interruptions of metronomes or Jason’s lo-fi cassette recordings pushing against the fluidity and expressiveness in revelatory ways. Jason’s own bass playing has been a feature of scads of ensembles, both working and ad hoc, including Jason Stein Trio, Jeb Bishop Trio, James Falzone’s KLANG, Jorrit Dijkstra’s Flatlands Collective, Pillow Circles, The Whammies, Keefe Jackson, and Mike Reed’s People, Places, and Things. The CD package for Four Spheres comes adorned with a beautiful painting by Rebecca Shore.

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