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Jon Irabagon: Behind The Sky

Dan Bilawsky By

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The grieving process is a personal journey and an act of discovery, allowing individuals to truly appreciate what was, while awakening to the reality of what is. And while no two people mourn in the exact same fashion, mourning itself, no matter the method, is almost always a cathartic experience. In the case of saxophonist Jon Irabagon, that emotional outpouring, connected to the loss of several loved ones and mentors, was channeled into Behind The Sky.

Irabagon—winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition, button-pusher in the controversial and (occasionally) irreverent Mostly Other People Do The Killing, and a key ingredient in the bands of trumpeter Dave Douglas, guitarist Mary Halvorson, and several other creative leading lights—doesn't usually keep to the jazz straight and narrow. More often than not he's made his mark in "outside" endeavors, but here, in paying respect to the departed and channeling his emotions, he takes a more direct approach with his compositions and execution: tuneful expression, stability, displays of empathy, and cohesion are the norm.

While a record reflecting the grieving process might logically be filled with somber songs and downcast displays, Irabagon doesn't buy into that line of thinking. Instead, he delivers charged numbers like "The Cost Of Modern Living" and "Sprites," reflective-turned-uplifting pieces like "One Wish," and sly songs like "Mr. Dazzler." There are moving pieces to be found here, like "100 Summers," and there are occasional moments of introspection, as displayed when Irabagon's soprano and Luis Perdomo's piano meet up on the adrift and efflorescent "Lost Ship At The Edge Of The Sea." But sorrowful this music isn't. Irabagon, with some help from his longtime rhythm section and guest trumpeter Tom Harrell, manages to purge his emotions without allowing pathos to weigh the music down.

Track Listing: One Wish; The Cost Of Modern Living; Music Box Song (For When We're Apart); Still Water; Obelisk; Sprites; Lost Ship At The Edge Of The Sea; Mr. Dazzler; Eternal Springs; 100 Summers; Behind The Sky (Hawks And Sparrows).

Personnel: Tom Harrell: trumpet, flugelhorn (4, 5, 9); Jon Irabagon: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Luis Perdomo: piano; Yasushi Nakamura: bass; Rudy Royston: drums.

Title: Behind The Sky | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced

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