Jason Robinson - tenor sax, alto flute, soprano sax
JD Parran - alto clarinet, contra bass clarinet, tenor sax
Marty Ehrlich - alto sax, bass clarinet, c flute
Marcus Rojas - tuba
Bill Lowe - tuba, bass trombone
Liberty Ellman - guitar
Drew Gress - bass
George Schuller - drums
Ches Smith - drums, glockenspiel
All compositions by Jason Robinson (Circumvention Music/ASCAP).
Cuneiform Records, Rune 346.
(c) 2012 Jason Robinson
(p) 2012 Cuneiform Records
Hopefully it comes as no surprise that my instincts as an improviser— influenced and inspired by the great traditions of African American creative music—have encouraged me to think about how we tell stories, the ways that we create narratives from abstractions of sound, silence, and time. After all, the imperative to “tell a story” is so ensconced in jazz lore that, as Vijay Iyer writes, “we seem to lack the analytical tools to describe in detail how, under what circumstances, or indeed whether this wordless spinning of yarns even could happen, let alone what the content might be.” I certainly agree with Iyer and would add that I enjoy the slippery meaning that accompanies this peculiar trope within jazz.
An ancient Greek soothsayer, Tiresias (sometimes spelled Teiresias) appears in the plays and writing of Sophocles, Euripides, Apollodoros, Ovid, Homer, and others. It’s said that he lived for (at least) seven generations and, after a fateful series of encounters with copulating snakes, switched genders and then back again. This experience was later called upon to settle a debate between Zeus and Hera about which gender experiences more pleasure during sex. I’ll let you read the ancient stories to find the answer.
As I composed the pieces contained on this album, I found myself drawn to the myth of Tiresias and became inspired by several basic numerical relationships of 7 and 2. Most of the pieces explore this relationship through basic structures of melody, harmony, rhythm, phrasing, instrumentation, and other larger components of the music. At the same time, such a logos-oriented approach often gives way to an openness, to an ethos of improvisation, individualism, and flexibility. In this way, Tiresian Symmetry is less about an aural re-creation of the story of Tiresias. If anything, the listener might find oneself nudged in the direction of mythology, of finding various narrative layers in the music that tell multiple overlapping stories. But there isn’t any one particular story that dominates others—you’ll hear the one that speaks to you.
Produced by Stephanie Robinson and Jason Robinson.
Recorded at Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY, 9-10 February 2012.
Engineered by Mike Marciano.
Mixed and mastered by Rich Breen, Dogmatic Studios, Burbank, CA.
Photography by Scott Friedlander.
Drawings by Judy LaMar.
Many thanks to: JD, Marty, Marcus, Bill, Liberty, Drew, George, and Ches for their dedication to the project and for being their own necessary and creative selves; Steve, Joyce, Javier, Simon, Bill, and Mark at Cuneiform Records for their support and faith in the project; and Ian Stahl, James Ilgenfritz, Jacob Cooper, Bruce Diehl, and Nancy Marciano for important technical assistance. My deepest thanks go to my partner Stephanie Robinson, whose moral support, musical ear, technical know-how, and clever, efficient producing were absolutely crucial to the project. I must also give a big thanks to Henry Threadgill, whose visionary recordings of the 1990s (with two tubas) continue to be a major inspiration to me.
This project was supported by the H. Axel Schupf Fund for Intellectual Life at Amherst College.