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Jason Ajemian’s voice is polarizing. It’s equal parts yelp and moan and perpetually, often purposefully, out of tune. As a bassist in Chicago’s jazz underground, Ajemian doesn’t usually advertise his abilities in this department, and it’s easy to see why. Is it atonal garbage or the next incarnation of ’60s avant-garde progenitor Patty Waters?
Well, we’re beginning to be convinced he’s onto something. Ajemian has composed one of Chicago’s best jazz (or folk?) records of the year with his Who Cares How Long You Sink ensemble’s Folk Forms. Falling somewhere between Birth of the Cool, Jack Nitzche’s work for Buffalo Springfield and the AACM’s Muhal Richard Abrams, Folk Forms surely will sound to many like an orchestra tuning up. But with a 20-plus ensemble of horns, strings, melodica, guitar, pedal steel, vibraphone, timpani and more at his fingertips, Ajemian brings these disparate textures together with remarkable cohesion. Using precomposed and open harmonies, each thick chord that passes under Ajemian’s voice undulates in confident waves. And thanks to the acoustics of the venue in which it was recorded—a sleepy church on the South Side that Ajemian calls “The Orphanage”—Folk Forms has a resonance rare for records in the Digital Age. Who cares? Now, anyway, we do.—Matthew Lurie
Matthew Lurie - Time Out Chicago