Alto saxophonist Aaron Irwin's second album is an impressive work with five originals, two standards and Thelonious Monk's "Ugly Beauty." Irwin's quintet includes tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, who appears on five of the eight selections, plus guitarist Ryan Scott, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Greg Ritchie.
Irwin, who's originally from Decatur, Illinois, studied in Chicago at DePaul University starting in 1996. As a member of the DePaul University Big Band, he took advantage of several opportunities that arose, including gigs with Louie Bellson, Dick Oatts and Joe Lovano. Irwin was able to find a lot of work in 2000 aboard various cruise ships. While he was living in Miami, he had the opportunity to record a commissioned work by bandleader Maria Schneider with the University of Miami Concert Jazz Band. A resident of New York since 2002, Irwin has been busy teaching and playing both locally and on tour.
Beginning the album with a much slower than usual version of the Jerome Kern classic "All the Things You Are," Irwin pleasantly shows that he knows a lot about melody playing. He and Perry introduce the melody without the pyrotechnics usually associated with a bebop ensemble. Ryan Scott shows that he prefers the Kurt Rosenwinkel school of guitar, and his solo relies heavily on smeary notes and feedback, which detract from the mood of this piece.
The original "Fumes," which opens with a dual-horn melody line (a la 1960s Blue Note), finds Perry in a more agressive solo which places his style in the post-Coltrane vein, in contrast to Irwin, who leans more towards a more cerebral but swinging Lee Konitz style. Scott's solo begins in a melody-oriented way, but gravitates towards a noisier, louder conclusion.
Ryan Scott is an effective feeder, providing the cushion for the horns; on "Into the Light," he provides his best (and straight-ahead) guitar solo. Irwin and Perry also give us a tantalizing version of Cole Porter's "So In Love" where the two horns intertwine as the track begins, in the manner of West Coast players from the 1950s, before the rest of the group joins in.
Personnel: Aaron Irwin: alto saxophone; Rich Perry: tenor saxophone (1,2,4-6); Ryan Scott: guitar; Matt
Clohesy: bass; Greg Ritchie: drums.