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Jon Irabagon: Behind the Sky

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There is no one in jazz like Jon Irabagon. He has mastered at least six reed instruments, and he plays them in so many styles you might think he suffers from dissociative identity disorder. In fact, all of his choices are deliberate. He is at home in left-of-center ensembles both intellectual (the Mary Halvorson Quintet) and visceral (Barry Altschul’s 3dom Factor). In Mostly Other People Do the Killing, he is often hilarious, a manic saxophone virtuoso, deeply embedded in the absurdist culture of that band. In his own trio with guitarist Mick Barr and drummer Mike Pride, he can raise more pandemonium than Albert Ayler. But he is also an essential member of a centrist A-list band, the Dave Douglas Quintet. With Douglas, Irabagon behaves himself and performs sincere jazz versions of folk songs and hymns, among other music.

Two new albums on his own label, Irabbagast, occupy opposite extremes of his vast stylistic spectrum. Behind the Sky is as straight-ahead as anything Irabagon has ever recorded, a quartet session with pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Rudy Royston. Trumpeter Tom Harrell joins on three tunes. It is a stunning record. Inaction Is an Action is a solo sopranino album, perhaps the first and last in the history of jazz. It is a stunning, unlistenable record.

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