Aaron Irwin Group: Into The Light (2007)
In addition to the leader's alto saxophone, the Aaron Irwin group is made up of guitarist Ryan Scott, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Greg Ritchie, with Rich Perry guesting on this album. Perry is a well-known educator at the Eastman School and a prolific recording artist on SteepleChase and other labels. Ritchie has recorded with David Aaron and Steve Amirault.
What makes Into The Light so enjoyable is that while the music cannot be called challenging, the arrangements and the playing create stories with a forward energy, rather than just consisting of blowing. The rhythmic pulse comes and goes, different players come forward, and in general they avoid the head-solo-solo-recap structure.
Irwin and Perry play against each other a lot, as in the unique arrangement of Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Are or Cole Porter's "So In Love. As they allow their ranges to cross, it can be hard to determine who is actually playing, perhaps reflecting on Irwin's maturity.
Aside from the two tunes mentioned above and "Ugly Beauty by Thelonious Monk, the five other tracks are Irwin compositions. Title tunes usually have a special significance for the composer, and "Into The Light shows some of the workings of Irwin's composing and arranging techniques. The melody itself, played in unison with Perry, has a very clear melodic, rhythmic and harmonic structure, which could easily become predictable. However, after the declamation, the players, each in his own way, take it apartmaking the listening experience interesting as we follow each soloist's deconstruction. The ending recap is almost shocking after what transpires in the middle.
Perry, who plays on five of the eight tracks, clearly clicks with Irwin as a player in the band and an interpreter of his compositions. Besides blending marvelously both musically and emotionally on the two standards, his emotionality on Irwin's abstract "The Point sounds totally natural.
The group as a whole has a welcome sound and personality. Even if each member is not immediately distinctive, the overall effort is well above average. Into The Light is not merely an enjoyable listen, but an engaging one.
Track Listing: All the Things You Are; Fumes; Into the 90's; Into the Light; So in Love; The Point; The Anti-Hero; Ugly Beauty.
Personnel: Aaron Irwin: alto saxophone; Rich Perry: tenor saxophone (1,2,4-6); Ryan Scott: guitar; Matt Clohesy: bass; Greg Ritchie: drums.
Record Label: Fresh Sound New Talent