The diversity of Jason Roebke’s musical associations make him one of the most sought after bassists in Chicago and beyond. He composes music for two ensembles, Jason Roebke Combination and the Jason Roebke Octet. Solo performance and a duo with dancer Ayako Kato are also at the forefront of his creative activities. His playing is intensely physical, audacious, and sparse. The Chicago Reader described his work as “a carefully orchestrated rummage through a hardware store.” He is a member of the Jeb Bishop Trio, Jason Adasiewicz Rolldown, Jason Stein’s Locksmith Isidore, Mike Reed’s People, Places, and Things, and Jorrit Dijkstra’s Flatlands Collective & Pillow Circles. Roebke studied privately with saxophonist and composer Roscoe Mitchell as well as legendary double bass pedagogue Stuart Sankey. In 2009, he was awarded the Fellowship in Music Composition from the Illinois Arts Council. Roebke tours widely in the US and Europe.
Jason Roebke is a double bassist, improviser and composer living in Chicago. He was born and raised in tiny Kaukauna, Wisconsin in 1974 and began playing electric bass at age 14. His first fascination was with Motown bassist James Jamerson. Roebke’s first introduction to jazz was at a summer jazz camp run by local legend, pianist, John Harmon. Here he heard recordings of Charlie Parker and a life long fascination with music was begun. His high school band director had a small jazz CD collection which included Ornette Coleman’s “The Art of the Improvisers” and Charles Mingus “Mingus Ah Um” which he listed to endlessly for years.
Entering college at the University of Minnesota for an extremely short stay, he returned to Wisconsin, graduating from a small liberal arts university in 1996. Roebke moved to Madison, WI to study with legendary saxophonist and composer Roscoe Mitchell. There he worked as Mitchell’s music copyist for 18 months, spending nearly everyday at Mitchell’s home reworking orchestral and chamber music scores with the composer. In 1998, Roebke entered the University of Michigan where he studied with bassist Rodney Whitaker.
In 1999, Roebke moved to Chicago and quickly began working with a new crop of young improvisers. There were early associations with saxophonists Aram Shelton, Dave Rempis and Matt Bauder (also a Michigan alumnus); drummers Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly and cornetist Josh Berman. Soon after his arrival in Chicago, Roebke organized his first quartet with Bauder, guitarist Jeff Parker, and drummer Chad Taylor. He also began playing with a large improvising ensemble Chicago Improvisers Group with Ken Vandermark, Jeb Bishop, Michael Zerang, Jim Baker among others. He made his first recording as a leader in 2003 with “Rapid Croche” on 482 Music. A trio session with saxophonist Aram Shelton and drummer Tim Daisy, the recording was a critical success. Also during this time, Roebke began his long and continuing association with Fred Lonberg-Holm. Roebke played, toured and recorded with Lonberg-Holm’s Terminal 4 and Valentine Trio. Roebke was the instigator of three recordings and a tour with the improvising trio tigersmilk, with cornetist Rob Mazurek and Vancouver drummer Dylan van der Schyff.
In recent years, Roebke has been playing with Jason Adasiewicz’s Rolldown, Jason Stein Trio, Jeb Bishop Trio, James Falzone’s KLANG, Jorrit Dijkstra’s Flatlands Collective, Pillow Circles, and The Whammies, Keefe Jackson, and Mike Reed’s People, Places, and Things. The trio of Nate Wooley, Fred Lonberg-Holm and Roebke released two recordings “Throw Down Your Hammer and Sing” and an untitled LP. Roebke and Berlin-based tenor saxophonist Tobias Delius released a duo CD on Nottwo Records in 2012.
Formed in 2012, the Jason Roebke Octet has performed regularly and recorded their debut CD “High/Red/Center” for Delmark Records.