Saturday, October 30, 2021

Jon Irabagon - Bird With Streams (Irabbagast, 2021)

Multi-reed master Jon Irabagon has shown during the course of his career that he is a relentless musical explorer, whether that is with the great band Mostly Other People Do the Killing or his experimental I Don't Hear Nothin' But the Blues series. But in early 2020 as the lockdown made collaboration difficult, he lit out for the territory, decamping for his in-laws home in South Dakota. While many musicians were trying to stay in contact with colleagues and listeners through teleconference, Irabagon embraced the natural world of the upper Midwest in order to look inward. He began to take his horns to a canyon area called Falling Rock where he could play his horns and hear how they might reverberate among the natural rock and water formations. The one hundredth anniversary of Charlie Parker's birth occurred during the time Irabagon was playing at Falling Rock, adding further inspiration and atmosphere to the performances. What results is a fascinating field recording of themes associated with Parker and other bebop luminaries as well as the occasional Irabagon line to keep things moving. It works very well, the music is wide open and inquisitive, with the saxophonist traveling in and through an these familiar melodies in order to learn more about them. He writes in his notes to the album that this album represents a "fight against nature" and at first blush that may be true, after all, it's hard to imagine a more urban music than bebop. But it is this natural setting that moves this album from some kind of solo recital, to a context where Irabagon has to be constantly on his toes constantly improvising as his music is reflected and refracted by wind, rock and water that always in the process of change. This album worked very well, Irabagon's gruff and gutsy tone cuts through the natural elements clearly and the unique backdrop and ambience of the site, making this one of the most unusual and exciting of all the plague year projects. Bird With Streams - Bandcamp

Send comments to Tim.