Jason Roebke

Repertoire for High Concept Laboratories


For his HCL Artist in Residence, composer-musician Jason Roebke has tracked the performative possibilities of an instrument while probing physical space and the depth of different resonant rooms.

His methodology has expanded upon his solo performance by integrating elements of movement into writing for music, emulating a dancer who choreographs. He has imagined two specific kinds of movement: a body in relation to itself (the instrument), and a body moving from one place to another. In addition, he has organized a collection of modular compositions that highlights the acoustic and visual characteristics of the HCL studio and the Raw Space at Mana Contemporary, exploiting their idiosyncrasies.

Repertoire for High Concept Labs is performed by Roebke with cornetists Ben Lamar Gay and Josh Berman. It proceeds from Repertoire for Co-Prosperity Sphere and Repertoire for Comfort Station, also written by Roebke for the three musicians.

All three works dissect their inimitable techniques and subsume the formal inventiveness of composition to the limitless space of improvisation. For the iteration at High Concept Labs, it specifically asks the players to give attention to how the body moves, tenses and relaxes.

In developing the work over the past year, Roebke has explained the thinking was “how to discover something previously unknown.” In effect, Repertoire for High Concept Labs elucidates the existence of dissonance alongside harmony, sound alongside silence. Roebke is inviting the listener and the player to question the tension about our dualities, suggesting how to move toward consensus about our coexistence in this historical moment.

Support for Jason Roebke: Repertoire for High Concept Labs is generously provided by the Illinois Arts Council Individual Artist Support Grant.

Photo credit Gonzalo Guzman, Art Dir Shirley Ellis, Tech Denny Chan


Jason Roebke is a Chicago bassist and composer. In addition to playing bass in several of Chicago’s most compelling jazz groups, he has composed music for his own Octet and small groups. His playing is intensely physical, audacious, and sparse. Roebke has collaborated extensively as a performer and composer with choreographer Ayako Kato. The Chicago Reader described his work as “a carefully orchestrated rummage through a hardware store.” He is a member of Jason Stein’s Locksmith Isidore, Mike Reed Flesh & Bone, and Tomeka Reid Quartet. 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. He was the subject of an extensive interview and career overview in Point of Departure.