Sunday, October 04, 2015

Jon Irabagon - Behind the Sky (Irabbagast Records, 2015)

Saxophonist Jon Irabagon has had an excellent year: this is his second solo album in addition to two discs with the wonderful collective Mostly Other People Do the Killing along with high profile sideman appearances. This album takes a more traditional modern mainstream approach to jazz, showing yet another side of this multifaceted musician.  Joining him are Luis Perdomo on piano, Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. Tom Harrell is a guest star on trumpet, flugelhorn for three tracks. “One Wish” opens the album with a contemporary jazz sound, bright and accessible, with a fully controlled mainstream vibe. There is a stable piano, bass and drums section that develops a choppy feel, before the leader’s saxophone returns in a confident manner adding a little more grit to his tone in the end. Fast quartet swing envelops “The Cost of Modern Living” which gives way to a very rapid and vibrant saxophone solo, which is non-stop in its excitement. After a quick interlude for the piano, bass and drums team, Irabagon slams back in accompanied by a deft drum section. “Music Box Song (For When We’re Apart)” is a ballad featuring lush saxophone and spare accompaniment building a dark lyrical feel that allows him to extrapolate a saxophone solo that develops in depth as well as sound. Trumpeter Tom Harrell joins the group on “Still Water,” and he adds an attractive, rounded tone to the proceedings. Beginning with minimal backing he builds his solo as the rest of the group folds in with led by nice buoyant bass before the leader reenters and offers a storming solo of his own with rolling drums and airy trumpet underneath. “Sprites” has Irabagon playing exciting swirls on a soprano saxophone, and the trio provides him a nice choppy foundation to improvise over. The piano trio’s own section is a touch slower, with choppy percussion building a fine rhythm, moving fast and strong and launching the leaders returning saxophone into orbit. Harrell joins the quartet again on “Eternal Springs” where his airy tone is met by punches of saxophone, and the full band comes together for some excellent ensemble play. “Behind the Sky (Hawks and Sparrows)” concludes the album nicely with Irabagon switching between tenor and soprano saxophones. Sections for both horns are nicely built, brick by brick becoming firmer until the group is going flat out. While much of the album examines grieving and the way we sadness, Behind the Sky displays Jon Irabagon at his most accessible yet still exploratory and witty. Behind the Sky -

Send comments to Tim.