Jason Robinson (musician)
||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2009)|
|Genres||Jazz, Improvised music, Avant-garde jazz|
|Years active||1993 to the present|
|Associated acts||Cosmologic, Cross Border Trio, Groundation, Trummerflora, Hans Fjellestad|
Jason Robinson (born 20 September 1975 in California) is an American jazz saxophonist, electronic musician, and composer. His musical projects cover a wide swath of creative approaches that draw heavily from post-1960s jazz experimentalism, more traditional post-bop performance practices, and emerging electronic music technologies. In addition to an extensive career leading his own groups and performing solo, Robinson co-founded the acclaimed collaborative avant-jazz group Cosmologic and Cross Border Trio, the latter a group featuring bassist Rob Thorsen and Mexican drummer Paquito Villa. Robinson has also performed extensively in the American reggae and jam band scenes, most notably with the Sonoma County, California-based internationally touring roots reggae group Groundation.
Robinson grew up in Folsom, California, where he first studied jazz under saxophonist Jeff Alkire and graduated from Folsom High School, where he was mentored by music director and saxophonist Curtis Gaesser. As a teenager, he frequented the jam sessions of Sacramento, then part of a thriving jazz scene in the Capital City.
Robinson studied jazz at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and Sonoma State University in Sonoma County, California. Receiving degrees in Jazz Studies and Philosophy from Sonoma State, Robinson was mentored by the late bassist and composer Mel Graves, who also recorded on From the Sun, Robinson's first album as a leader. It was in Sonoma County that many of Robinson’s most important early musical partnerships were developed. He a founding member of the group Cannonball (an early group of San Francisco's Jazz Mafia), was the first saxophonist in the influential roots reggae group Groundation, collaborated with a huge variety of Bay Area jazz musicians, and founded Circumvention Music.
In 1998 Robinson moved to San Diego to begin graduate studies in the Critical Studies and Experimental Practices Program in the Department of Music at the University of California, San Diego. He studied under trombonist and scholar George E. Lewis and pianist and composer Anthony Davis. Robinson’s scholarship took a marked turn towards cultural studies. In San Diego, he worked extensively with a trio that featured bassist Rob Thorsen and drummer Brett Sanders.
Robinson's interest in reggae began in the late 1990s, initially through his friendship and early involvement with Groundation (who have achieved widespread international success in their combination of roots reggae, dub experimentalism, and jazz improvisation). Through Groundation, Robinson has recorded with reggae legends Don Carlos, Ras Michael, Marcia Higgs, the Scientist, and Cedric Myton of The Congos. After moving to San Diego, Robinson became a member of the bilingual (Spanish-English) group Elijah Emanuel and the Revelations. He has also performed with Eek-a-Mouse, Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, and a host of other local reggae groups. He was featured on Toots and the Maytals’ Grammy-nominated 2007 album Light Your Light (Fantasy). He can be heard on a cut that features Toots in duo with Bonnie Raitt.
In the late 1990s, Robinson also focused on developing long-term collaborative groups. In 1999, he co-founded Cosmologic with trombonist Michael Dessen, bassist Scott Walton, and percussionist Nathan Hubbard. They have performed at festivals and prominent venues throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Europe. Their fourth album, Eyes in the Back of My Head, was released in May 2008 by Cuneiform Records. In 2002, Robinson released his second album as a leader, Tandem (Accretions). A conceptual “duo” album, Tandem features Robinson in a variety of settings with a stellar cast of experimentalists including George Lewis, Anthony Davis, the late German bassist Peter Kowald, and others. Garnering much praise, Tandem was chosen as a “critic’s pick” for 2002 in JazzTimes Magazine. In 2003 Robinson co-founded the Cross Border Trio, a collaborative transnational group that has performed extensively throughout Mexico. Their debut album, New Directions (2006/Circumvention), achieved widespread critical acclaim.
While in San Diego, Robinson co-founded Trummerflora, a musician collective dedicated to supporting creative music in and beyond Southern California. Largely modeled after the influential African American musician collectives of the 1960s and 70s (the AACM, Black Artists Guild, etc.), Trummerflora continues to produce concert series, an annual festival of creative music (Spring Reverb), and release compilation albums featuring member artists.
Robinson received a Ph.D. in Music at the University of California, San Diego in 2005. He has taught in Music, Ethnic Studies, African American Studies, and Black Studies at the University of California, San Diego, the University of California, Irvine, Southwestern College, San Diego City College, and Cuyamaca College. Since 2008 he has been Assistant Professor of Music at Amherst College, where he also mentors a student jazz ensemble and multiple combos.
Electronic Music and Networked Performance
A major thread in Robinson's work focuses on new developments in software-based computer music and electro-acoustic signal processing. Using primarily the programming environment of the software Max/MSP, Robinson creates algorithmically generated environments for improvisation and uses various processes to transform the sound of his saxophones and flutes. His interest in electro-acoustic improvisation began in the early 1990s, when he began using guitar, keyboard, and vocal effects processors on his saxophone.
Robinson has also directed and performed in several multi-site, networked concerts (most recently called "telematics"). New developments in networking software allow near instantaneous CD-quality audio connections between distant performance sites. Robinson's most recent networked performance was titled "Trancontinental Circuits," which took place on April 3, 2009 and featured saxophonist Adnan Marquez-Borbon at Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford University, trombonist Michael Dessen at the University of California, Irvine, and Robinson at Amherst College in Massachusetts. Drawing upon this emerging technology, Robinson has composed several interactive compositions designed for multi-site networked performance.
- From the Sun (Circumvention, 1998)
- Tandem (Accretions, 2002)
- Fingerprint (Circumvention, 2008)
- Cerberus Rising (Circumvention, 2009)
- The Two Faces of Janus (Cuneiform, 2010)
- Tiresian Symmetry (Cuneiform, 2012)
- Cosmologic, Staring at the Sun (Circumvention, 2000)
- Cosmologic, Syntaxis (Circumvention, 2002)
- Cosmologic III (Circumvention, 2005)
- Cosmologic, Eyes in the Back of My Head (Cuneiform, 2008)
- Cross Border Trio, New Directions (Circumvention, 2007)
- Hans Fjellestad/Peter Kowald/Dana Reason/Jason Robinson, Dual Resonance (Circumvention, 2005)
- Jason Robinson official website
- "Amherst College visiting professor Jason Robinson offers a multi-site, real-time collaborative concert", Valley Advocate, 2 April 2009