Saxophonist Jon Irabagon is no stranger to audacious projects, he jumps back and forth with ease between the avant-garde and mainstream jazz. On this project he hooks up with drummer Barry Altschul and bassist Peter Brendler for a massive 78 minute non-stop performance. This is an endurance test and the ultimate blowing session - imagine John Coltrane's epic "Chasin' the Trane" stretched out to cover the length of an entire compact disc and you get the drift. The track titles are markers within the continuous performance starting with "Foxy" which fades into to a strong trio improvisation showing the band bootin' hard in a modern JATP mode. Deeply digging bass and drums power "Poxy" and the action drives Irabagon to keep going, tossing in little riffs and phrases and then stirring the musical soup like a chef. "Chicken Poxy" keeps the ball rolling faster and faster with non-stop hard riffing saxophone supported by agile bass and drums. Altschul spent years with the Sam Rivers trio so he is reveling in this type of action. "Boxy" is a little more spacious and swinging, building little crescendo like phrases from low to high. "Hydroxy" eases in subtle dynamic shifts and rolling skronking circular patterns of saxophone. Irabagon moves up fast and high on "Biloxi" enveloped in a torrid backbeat. The saxophonist and drummer lock in as honks are laid atop beats for percussive overload. "Tsetse" has deep swirls of saxophone over broken rhythm as the drums challenge and the saxophone responds. Raw peals of saxophone are woven against rolling drums as Brendler's bass scrambles for purchase. "Unorthodoxy" moves into boppish phrases, making things interesting and deeply swinging. The bass sounds great and serves to anchor the saxophone and drums and keep them from flying off into the cosmos. Irabagon builds back up, waling and gregarious like the over-caffeinated guy at coffee shop who has to tell you everything. "Epoxy" is the centerpiece of the album, as Irabagon punctuates is saxophone phrases with little honks and subtle variations. Rolling guttural honks and driving drums take the music to a new level of intensity, then opens back up to allow the bass the lope along. "Roxy" shows the band pushing through exhaustion like a boxer in the late rounds of an epic brawl. Peeling off short repeated riffs of saxophone and worrying a few notes as the drums get stronger and the bass drones. The repeated notes are anxious warnings, but they're not out of gas yet. "Foxy (Radio Edit)" is an absolute riot, as the band delves deep into the blues grinding like they are supporting bizarre floor show in the bordello of the mind. "Moxie" brings the finale with strong trio improvisation rolling home like a musical locomotive, ever faster. The music stops abruptly as if the pace the gotten so frenetic that band had burst into flame and ascended. A fitting end to one of the most exhausting (for the listener as well as the musicians) albums that I can recall. As wild and wholly as the whole spectacle is, this isn't just an exercise in grandstanding. The band sees how far they can push a simple form of music and find in their exploration that there is a lot of room to move and explore. In the process they create some of the most exciting and provocative music of the year. Foxy - amazon.com
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JASS - self titled (Yolk Records, 2014) *****
4 hours ago