Keefe Jackson/Jason Adasiewicz: Rows and Rows

The duet is one of the purest expressions in jazz: unfiltered, unsullied and confidential by its very nature. Tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist Keefe Jackson and vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz-regulars within Chicago’s AACM-inspired improvisational music cabal-wear the format well on Rows and Rows. They’ve been circling each other for more than a decade, both having contributed to cornetist Josh Berman’s 2009 Old Idea, another Delmark release, but this dialogue puts both players in a different space than they’re customarily heard.

It’s evident from the first 10 seconds of Jackson’s “Caballo Ballo” that there’s an instinctual compatibility between them. Adasiewicz’s vibes are, for a full half-minute, redolent of an incessantly ringing doorbell; Jackson tries his damnedest to coax his partner out of the endless loop, then figures if ya can’t beat ’em, join ’em. A most unusual and beguiling call-and-response ensues, a playful dance that ultimately breaks down into a morass of deranged percussion and squeaks before finding its way back. There’s much kooky fun to be had in its unexpectedness.

Both players, but Adasiewicz in particular, delight in messing with anticipation. The vibraphonist loves the openness he gets from sustain and incorporates it liberally; he’s sly in the way he slips easily from intense onslaught to delicate exposition. On “Cannon From the Nothing Suite,” another Jackson composition, Adasiewicz lays down a bed of reverb, then kicks back, allowing Jackson to hover with unchecked abandon. “Where’s Mine,” one of three Adasiewicz tunes, is living proof that a bass clarinet can swing even in a quasi-avant environment, and the vibes man’s “Thunder Cooker” is a classic case of mutual respect and understanding-it’d be perfect for a modern noir film. Rows and Rows feels like a hearty handshake.

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