Jason Ajemian & the HighLife return to Richmond on Friday night to play at Balliceaux. The quintet is known for the bassist’s unorthodox notation style, and paired with the band’s unique personalities, it gives way for truly original music.
Jason Ajemian & the HighLife return to Richmond on Friday night. The quintet is known for the bassist’s unorthodox notation style, and paired with the band’s unique personalities, it gives way for truly original music.
A listen to their full-length album “Let me get that Digital.” shows some insight into their musical process: there are clear tunes separated by transitions that wrap it up into a fine package. It’s not until you see them live that the whole picture comes into view. Bassist Ajemian composes his music in the architectural software Auto-CAD so that the band’s sheet music look like blue prints of a twisted house. Fragments of melodic notation and lyrics may be in each room, while graphics (the shape of a room or a hallway, or what’s in that space) tell the musicians how to interpret a tune or how to get from one tune to another. When they played in Richmond in April, we saw the band cross the map from explosive out jazz to some funky JB-type grooves to a sea shanty, all the while (somehow) never compromising their own sound.
Take the last four pieces of the album. The music is pretty at times, jarring at others. Always changing, never stagnant for long. Ajemian’s poetry leads the way much of the time.
Listen to “Distracting Lucas, Soak up the Sun, Big Sky (#6), and Trust Those Eyes”:[audio:
http://media.rvanews.com/11%20Distracting%20Lucas.mp3,http://media.rvanews.com/12%20Soak%20up%20the%20Sun.mp3,http://media.rvanews.com/13%20Big%20Sky.mp3,http://media.rvanews.com/14%20Trust%20Those%20Eyes.mp3|titles=Distracting Lucas,Soak up the Sun,Big Sky (#6), Trust Those Eyes|artists=Jason Ajemian & The HighLife,Jason Ajemian & The HighLife,Jason Ajemian & The HighLife,Jason Ajemian & The HighLife]
Ajemian on improvisation, as told to Metro Pulse in July 2009:
I was never that impressed with being able to play a form… That’s like craftsmanship. I’ve never felt the need to show someone that I can play this or that. To me the magic is in the unknown, the layers of life found outside of our consciousness or what we can mentally put into a space. I’m more impressed by nature than the concrete boxes society has chosen for living quarters. In general I’m more interested in what the spirit says than what the mind says. I feel that improvisation represents something closer to our true selves and our natural selves. The idea of being selfless and letting spontaneous, true moments exist is beautiful.
Writes Columbia, SC’s Free Times:
…[L]istening to Jason Ajemian and the High Life is like trying to decipher a fever dream, one in which words become notes, notes become colors and metallic thwaps become words…
Indeed, flow is what the High Life is all about. Over the course of a continuous hour, the quintet masterfully moved all over the sonic map, from acid rock to free jazz to Akron/Family-esque indie rock to glacial, doomy slowcore, with each movement punctuated by a total collapse of form. Like a fever dream, bits and strands of one sonic shape were pulled to make the next, ever evolving each sly groove into something new and radical.
Jason Ajemian & The HighLife play this Friday at Balliceaux, 10:30pm, $5, ages 21+. Balliceaux is located at 203 N. Lombardy St in Richmond, VA. Visit balliceauxrva.com for more info.
Jason Ajemian & The HighLife is Jason Ajemian (bass, vocals), Jacob Wick (trumpet, vocals), Peter Hanson (saxophone, vocals), Owen Stewart-Robertson (guitar), Marc Riordan (drums, vocals). Visit them online.