Jason Robinson (b. 1975) is a composer, saxophonist, flutist, scholar, and educator. Now a long time resident of western Massachusetts, Robinson is originally from California
The music of American composer, saxophonist, flutist, and scholar Jason Robinson ("rugged and scintillating," New York Times) thrives in the fertile overlaps between improvisation and composition, acoustic music and electronics, tradition and experimentalism. Initially a devotee of post-1960s jazz and creative music, Robinson is celebrated for bringing together various historical directions in jazz--bebop, post-bop, the avant-garde--with an improvisatory and compositional sensibility drawn from and extending the languages of John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Lester Young. His musical interests, however, span far and wide. Born in 1975, he is a critically acclaimed distinctive voice in a generation of creative musicians in equal dialogue with jazz, popular music, experimental music, and electronic music.
Robinson's primary group is his New York-based Janus Ensemble, which ranges in size from quartet to full 11-piece ensemble featuring pianists Joshua White and Angelica Sanchez, guitarist Liberty Ellman, bassist Drew Gress, percussionists Ches Smith and George Schuller, trombonist Michael Dessen, trombonist and tubist Bill Lowe, tubist Marcus Rojas, and fellow reedists Marty Ehrlich, JD Parran, and Oscar Noriega. The group's latest release is Harmonic Constituent (Playscape, 2020), whose title draws from an oceanographic term that refers to the complex influences of the cyclical motion of the Earth, Sun, and Moon on tides at specific locations, and whose compositions are inspired by technical and impressionistic aspects of the oceanography, tidal dynamics, and geography specific to the coastline between Mendocino and Westport, two towns on the North Coast of California. The Janus Ensemble has three previous albums: Resonant Geographies (pfMENTUM), Tiresias Symmetry (Cuneiform), and The Two Face of Janus (Cuneiform).
Robinson has released 18 albums as leader or co-leader and appeared on nearly 50 albums in total. He performs regularly as a soloist (acoustically and with electronics), with his group Janus Ensemble, and in numerous collaborative contexts. He has performed at festivals and prominent venues through North, Central, and South America, Europe, and East Asia, and performed with Peter Kowald, George Lewis, Anthony Davis, Myra Melford, Nicole Mitchell, Amiri Baraka, Howard Johnson, Toots and the Maytals, Groundation, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Eugene Chadbourne, Earl Howard, Bertram Turetzky, Mark Dresser, John Russell, Roger Turner, Gerry Hemingway, Kei Akagi, Mel Graves, Babatunde Lea, Mel Martin, Marco Eneidi, Lisle Ellis, Raphe Malik, Mike Wofford, Dana Reason, San Francisco Mime Troupe, New Pickle Circus, Makanda Project, Ernie Small Big Band, among others.
As a scholar, Robinson’s work investigates the relationship between improvised and popular musics, experimentalism, and cultural identity. His writing is published in Ethnomusicology, Jazz Perspectives, Critical Studies in Improvisation/ Études critiques en improvisation, Jazz and Culture, Journal of Popular Music Studies, Social Anthropology, and several edited volumes. Robinson is Professor of Music at Amherst College and holds a Ph.D. in Music from the University of California, San Diego.