For The Record


The Jump Ensemble


The Jump Ensemble has been performing together in assorted configurations continuously since the early 90s, which would likely make them among the longer-running jazz units in the Pacific Northwest. With that kind of longevity, it’s not a surprise that the band plays with a patient swing and a laid-back confidence, moving seamlessly and effortlessly through an eclectic mix of jazz, Latin, and groove-oriented styles.

The tight knit group succeeded in keeping up a regular backyard rehearsal schedule throughout most of the pandemic and dropped into the Jack Straw Cultural Center studio space last summer (once COVID protocols allowed it) to record their newly released album, Switchbacks.

Though the band also plays music from multiple eras throughout jazz history, the new album features nine original compositions, all composed by pianist Gregg Robinson (and arranged by the band). Robinson, who played for many years with the renowned Jim Cutler Jazz Orchestra, covers varied territory in these compositions, and his writing straddles a multiplicity of styles. The arrangements are crisp and compelling, full of varied instrumental colors that explore all the possibilities of their quintet format, with up-front brass sonorities that often invoke a smaller format Gil Evans unit. 

Highlights off the record include the title track which kicks off with a grooving odd-meter figure by bassist Marty Hasegawa, featuring a snaky interlocking melody line and solid soloing from Robinson, along with trombonist Ed Spangenberg, trumpeter James Peters, and drummer Mark Filler. I’m partial to the quieter, moodier moments on the album, such as the classic jazz ballad vibe of “Spring Rose,” and the yearning cinematic sonorities of “Te Aprecio.”

The ensemble reveals an easy poise and conviviality made possible by years of friendship and experience together on the bandstand, without the distracting need to prove anything or show off. Robinson says it best: “We mostly just enjoy playing with each other and making the music as tight and spirited as possible.” Amen to that. 

Spin Switchbacks on Bandcamp and consider supporting The Jump Ensemble’s music on the next Bandcamp Friday, wherein Bandcamp waves their revenue share on the first Friday of the month to support artists whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the pandemic. Stay up to date with the group at jumpensemble.com.


Posted on

March 28, 2022