Monday, November 12, 2012

Jon Irabagon's Outright! - Unhinged (Irabbagast Records, 2012)

Saxophonist Jon Irabagon is one of the busiest musicians on the contemporary jazz scene. In addition to taking plum sideman appearances with the likes of Mary Halvorson and Dave Douglas, he has found time to start his own label and release two albums this fall. Along with Irabagon, the core group on this album is Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Jacob Sacks on keyboard, John Hebert on bass and Tom Rainey on drums. There are also guest spots for individuals and even a large orchestra. The music is spirited and fun, covering a lot of ground, much like he does in the thrilling group he anchors, Mostly Other People Do the Killing. The music moves from short riotous blasts of manic joy, “Camp Douglas, 1-3” which sounds like bebop meshed with cartoon music - boisterous and cheerful, to the Latin music of “Lola Pastillas.” This track was particularly interesting, beginning with Sacks developing an angular motif on piano, before deftly moving to a syncopated pace that builds in the elastic Latin theme. Irabagon develops a powerful saxophone solo over staccato percussion to excellent effect. “Kremzeek” ricochets off into another direction entirely, with horns melding with electric keyboards to usher in a complicated introduction. The tune is lightning fast with the leader soloing over strong accompaniment of bubbling electric keyboards and bass, making for a thrilling performance. A snarling guitar solo envelops the music, before making way for spots for drums and trumpet. The version of Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” is re-worked to the point of being unrecognizable, and Irabagon develops a deep stoic “Coltrane in ‘65” tone that adds a whole new dimension to the music, especially with Hebert’s epic bass solo. While occasionally rough and ready, it is the wit of Irabagon and the other musicians in this album that shines through the most. This is an accessible album that will appeal to a wide swath of jazz fans, comfortable in the hard swinging world of mainstream jazz and the abstract and ever inquiring world of the avant-garde. Not to be missed. Unhinged -

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