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Jon Irabagon: It Takes All Kinds

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Jon Irabagon’s previous recordings as a leader (Foxy, Unhinged) and his sideman work (Mary Halvorson, Dave Douglas, Mostly Other People Do the Killing) have started a buzz. No other current saxophonist encompasses his mix of explosive energy, stylistic diversity, lethal chops and radical ideas.

It Takes All Kinds is a trio album recorded live at the Peitz festival in Germany in June 2013. Irabagon, who is proficient on six reed instruments, stays with tenor saxophone. Bassist Mark Helias and drummer Barry Altschul are relentless provocateurs in the ensemble and take eloquent, comprehensive, suspenseful solos.

The first of eight Irabagon originals, all written to leverage the strengths of this trio, is “Wherewithal.” It derives music from a three-note tantrum. “Vestiges,” also based on a stark cluster, is unleashed into swing (crooked) and lyricism (jagged). At the end Irabagon comes upon an infectious little hook. Each time he repeats it he renounces it with a huge intervallic leap to a banshee rasp. It is like a duet played by his ego and his id. He is into degree-of-difficulty. On “Quintessential Kitten,” by means of circular breathing, his onslaught of 16th notes might go on forever. Then he sticks the landing. On “Sunrise” he emits short and long treble expletives that sound random until you perceive the final design. “Cutting Corners” also has notes that sound like autonomous events, lurching as they do across four octaves. It is exhilarating when they coalesce and flow.

Irabagon is one of the most exciting talents to enter jazz in the new millennium, but this record is all about a trio. The best moments (like “Pause and Flip”) occur when each player is providing so much content you think you are hearing three concurrent separate solos, but they turn out to be a deep interaction, creating spontaneous form

Originally Published