Jason Ajemian and High Life

In September, Scott Burton explained how Jason Ajemian uses architecture software called AUTOCAD to build “groove mansions” for his group High Life. Wednesday night, Jason Ajemian and The High Life took the stage at Balliceaux. Jason Ajemian’s music is not quite like anything you might have ever heard. Trumpet player Jaimie Branch and alto saxophonist […]

In September, Scott Burton explained how Jason Ajemian uses architecture software called AUTOCAD to build “groove mansions” for his group High Life. Wednesday night, Jason Ajemian and The High Life took the stage at Balliceaux.

Jason Ajemian’s music is not quite like anything you might have ever heard. Trumpet player Jaimie Branch and alto saxophonist Peter Hanson are a potent front line combination that has total command over the “avant-garde” sound. Throughout the entire first song, Hanson didn’t put his mouthpiece on his saxophone. Instead using the saxophone neck like a mouthpiece he coalesced every sound imaginable out his horn. Behind the sound of this more typical Brooklyn front line, Jason Ajemian (bass/ vocals), Owen Stewart-Robertson (guitar) and Nick Jenkins (drummer) played an entirely different tradition focused on song writing. It was the combination of these two different sounds that created something entirely new and gave Jason Ajemian his signature sound.

Listen to Spectacle:

After a rousing set by Glows in the Dark, Ajemian took the stage and commented on all of the cities people say he hails from. While no verdict was reached, it immediately became obvious that between his youth in western Virginia, five years in Chicago, and now Brooklyn, Ajemian’s life is just as much a fusion of different cities as his music is a fusion of styles.

Over the course of roughly 40 minutes, The High Life performed a series of songs without pausing. Without using any of the complex AUTOCAD charts, which are about 3’ by 2’, the band seamlessly transitioned between memorized songs. The biggest surprise was the funkiness that dominated the second half. Nick Jenkins was not afraid to play backbeats, and the horn players gradually progressed from the sounds of saxophonist Tony Malaby to the sounds of long time James Brown sideman saxophonist Maceo Parker.

For some groups, backbeats sound like a gimmick, but the natural progression of the night from avant-garde-singer-song-writer, to rock band, to funk group was genuine, entertaining and impressive. Not many groups can play forty minutes of songs blended together and keep it interesting, but Jason Ajemian and The High Life always left me wondering, “what’s next?”

After traveling here several times over the past few months, Jason Ajemian clearly has a relationship with Richmond, and it will be good to hear him again the next time he returns.

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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

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