Jon Irabagon with Mike Pride: I Don't Hear Nothin' But the Blues (2009)
Sometimes you don't need more than a sax and a drum set. Tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagonwinner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition and a potent and articulate front man of the post-modern be-bop quartet Mostly Others Do The Killingand versatile drummer Mike Pridea collaborator of Anthony Braxton and punk outfits such as Millions of Dead Copsprove this point on their first recorded duet. It is a powerful and dynamic exhibition of flowing improvisation that does not bind itself to a specific style or genre.
The title of this about 47-minute improvisation, and the iconic train painting on the cover, may suggest that all improvised music began with the blues; the opening impression strengths this feeling. Irabagon's big horn calls suggest a familiar, down-to-earth blues theme, but then Pride deconstructs and reconstructs the basic scale in an energetic manner that has more in common with a fiery free session. So blues may be the launching pad from which this duo begins to explore the jazz tradition, but at the same time they bring in non-jazz genres such as punk, thrash metal...even calypso. All these different and often conflicting genres are piled together as the duo constantly shifts the focus, tempo and mood within this dense construction.
Irabagon and Pride's multi-layered attitude evolves, shifts and transforms between several fragmented motifs and ideas, like a wild ride on a fast train. Both stress a rhythmic playing, and an approach that is fast and focused; one that reveals their wide musical vocabulary and is powerfully intense. There are no solo excursions, quiet passages or gentle playing, but the levels of tension are often less intense.
This is not a tribute to past sax and drums collaborations, beginning with the legendary duet of John Coltrane and Rashied Ali on Interstellar Space (Impulse!, 1965) and continuing with similar collaborations including David Murray or John Zorn with Milford Graves, or Peter Brötzmann with Han Bennink,or Ken Vandermark with Paal Nilssen-Love. This collaboration suggest a bold different approach, one that is fit for those with short-attention-spans, who can digest this offering of fast, immediate and rotating references .
Track Listing: I Don't Hear Nothin' But the Blues.
Personnel: Jon Irabagon: tenor saxophone; Mike Pride: drums.