The cover of saxophonist Jon Irabagon's album Behind the Sky depicts a lonely man walking in a landscape of ice-clad mountains. The image is an apt metaphor for the grieving process that Irabagon tries to put into music. However, those expecting a ballad session of gentle contemplation are in for a surprise. Irabagon's musical landscape is far more knotty and rhythmically complex than the simple, but difficult art of the ballad. There are tender moments, sure, but also heated swing where pianist Luis Perdomo lets his fingers move across the keys in a passionate dance while bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Rudy Royston cook up solid grooves.
A special guest on the album is trumpeter Tom Harrell. He adds a warm tone and pleasurable counterpoint to the sophisticatedly swinging "Still Water" and "Obelisk" that both burn with a quiet blue flame. The bird song of Irabagon's saxophone introduces another collaboration with Harrell, the bluesy groove "Eternal Springs," and, once again, there is a strong rhythmical undercurrent from Nakamura and Royston.
While the music, with all its twist and turns, is constantly redefining its own expression, there is also something about holding on to a particular mood. The only pure ballad, "Lost Ship at the Edge of the Sea," is perhaps the album's strongest cut, with Irabagon and Perdomo in subdued conversation. It is the kind of track that could easily be a template for a whole album and it suggests that a traditional ballad session would, in fact, not be a bad thing at all.
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.
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