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Concert Mon Apr 28 2008

Jason Ajemian's Smokeless Heat


Chicago's jazz and improvised music scene has produced a disproportionate share of iconoclasts and radicals in its long and colorful history. The city that works nurtured Sun Ra and Andrew Hill, Roscoe Mitchell and Lester Bowie, to name just a handful. While Jason Ajemian hasn't reached the musical heights or accomplishments of the aforementioned bunch, he certainly belongs to the Chicago constellation of musical individuality. His concept and approach is anything but traditional, but the results are unique and sometimes extraordinary.

His recent Delmark release with his band Smokeless Heat, The Art of Dying, is emblematic of his approach and musical values. The core of the band consists of Ajemian on bass, Tim Haldeman on saxophone, and Nori Tanaka on drums. Haldeman and Ajemian have a deep musical connection nurtured over years of Sunday sessions that Ajemian held at the Bridgeport Coffee House, where they'd play for hours as a duo with an occasional extra guest. Nori Tanaka was a natural choice for the drummer spot in the band, given his association with Ajemian in A Cushicle, a band that includes Jeff Parker. These chains of collaboration are endemic in the Chicago scene, and they produce the kind of music that we find on The Art of Dying. On the release they are also joined by Jaimie Branch, Jason Adasiewicz and Matt Schneider.

The album is a confident collection of songs played by a group that has moved past the basic mechanics of music to produce sound that is palpably communicative. Compared to Ajemian's previous output, the feel is more lyrical and in the jazz tradition in terms of a sense of swing. Ajemian's bass playing can tend towards the ethereal at times, but he is also a grounding force in the music, holding the center when other elements spiral outwards. Jaimie Branch is in top form and balances Haldeman's approach beautifully, and Adasiewicz's marimba malletry provides the some welcome timbral contrast throughout. There's a wide variety of music presented here in terms of feel and sound, but the personal voices of each musician provide the continuity that keeps it from feeling scattered. The intensely personal liner notes by Ajemian round out the picture of this music and its goals, all of which are achieved.

To celebrate the release, Nori Tanaka has returned from Japan (you can read about his deportation saga here) to play a record release show at Heaven Gallery, as well as a few others while he's in town. Since he's no longer a Chicago resident it's an occasion not to be missed.

Jason Ajemian's Smokeless Heat celebrates the release of The Art of Dying Wednesday, April 30th at Heaven Gallery, 1550 N Milwaukee, 2nd Fl, 773.342.4597

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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