Jon Irabagon: The Observer (2009)

By Published: | 7,907 views
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Jon Irabagon: The Observer
Best known as the volatile saxophonist in bassist Moppa Elliott
Moppa Elliott
Moppa Elliott
b.1978
bass
's self proclaimed terrorist be-bop band Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Jon Irabagon has only just begun his career as a solo artist. His bristling duet with drummer Mike Pride
Mike Pride
Mike Pride

percussion
, I Don't Hear Nothin' But The Blues (Loyal Label, 2009) was preceded by Outright! (Innova, 2008), the self-titled debut of his own vivaciously eclectic quartet.

The Observer is Irabagon's first release for Concord Records, which awarded him a recording contract after he won last year's Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
International Jazz Saxophone Competition. On this surprisingly straight-ahead session (expertly recorded by Rudy Van Gelder
Rudy Van Gelder
Rudy Van Gelder
b.1924
producer
), Irabagon is supported by a trio of longstanding veterans; pianist Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
b.1943
piano
, bassist Rufus Reid
Rufus Reid
Rufus Reid
b.1944
bass, acoustic
, and drummer Victor Lewis
Victor Lewis
Victor Lewis
b.1950
drums
Stan Getz
Stan Getz
Stan Getz
1927 - 1991
sax, tenor
's touring rhythm section of the 1980s. Years of shared experience elevates Barron, Reid, and Lewis' congenial interplay beyond mere professionalism, lending this date a timeless appeal.

Seven of the ten selections are originals, demonstrating Irabagon's flair for composing accessible jazz tunes that fit comfortably in the mainstream tradition. A dynamic soloist, Irabagon plays alto for most of the date, his tortuous cadences recalling Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
's blistering dexterity, Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
's cerebral precision, and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Julian
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
1928 - 1975
saxophone
's soulful poise. Showing great reserve, he reins in his more vociferous tendencies, using subtle expressionistic accents (altissimo, chromatics, multiphonics) sparingly.

The heavily syncopated "January Dream" opens the set with lush harmonies from Barron and stalwart support from Reid and Lewis. Tom McIntosh

Tom McIntosh
Tom McIntosh
b.1927
trombone
's "Cup Bearers" is a brisk bop number, while the sultry title track is a lilting mid-tempo swinger featuring Irabagon's effusive tenor. Infused with simmering post-bop energy, "Joy's Secret" reveals a subtle complexity, underpinned by Lewis' Latin accents and Barron's prismatic flourishes, spotlighting a mellifluous trumpet solo from guest artist Nicholas Payton
Nicholas Payton
Nicholas Payton
b.1973
trumpet
, who also contributes pithy salvos to the scorching hard bop burner "Big Jim's Twins."

Alternating vibrant up-tempo tunes with more introspective fare, Irabagon unveils a rarely heard sensitive side. His velvety tone is highlighted on Gigi Gryce's melancholy "Infant Song," while his lyrical phrasing dominates "Acceptance," the breezy bossa nova "Makai and Tacoma" and the earthy "Closing Arguments." His intimate duet with guest pianist Bertha Hope

Bertha Hope
Bertha Hope
b.1936
piano
on her late husband Elmo Hope
Elmo Hope
Elmo Hope
1923 - 1967
piano
's somber ballad "Barfly" reveals depths of emotional maturity.

A solid and eminently likeable mainstream affair, The Observer scarcely hints at Irabagon's avant-garde credentials, focusing instead on his tastefully virtuosic capabilities as a straight-ahead stylist—yet another facet of his wide-ranging artistry.

Track Listing: January Dream; Joy's Secret; The Infant's Song; Cup Bearers; The Observer; Acceptance; Makai and Tacoma; Big Jim's Twins; Barfly; Closing Arguments.

Personnel: Jon Irabagon: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone (5, 7); Kenny Barron: piano (1-8, 10); Rufus Reid: bass; Victor Lewis: drums; Nicholas Payton: trumpet (2, 8); Bertha Hope: piano (9).

Record Label: Concord Music Group

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


comments powered by Disqus
Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW

Enter it twice.
To the weekly jazz events calendar

Enter the numbers in the graphic
Enter the code in this picture

Log in

One moment, you will be redirected shortly.

or search site with Google