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Jon Irabagon: Foxy

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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In choosing to craft his tribute to the idiom and energy of hard bop around one of Sonny Rollins' classic compositions, "Doxy," but to use the surreal, carnival atmosphere of Rollins' 1957 cover art for Way Out West (Contemporary), young tenor saxophonist, Jon Irabagon has made one of the more memorable tenor saxophone trio records, Foxy, with the mighty Barry Altschul on drums and breathtaking bassist, Peter Brendler. In doing so, Irabagon has broken the barrier of the classic sixteen-bar song by improvising almost interminably for almost eighty minutes on an original theme—something Rollins did famously in the structure-defying Way out West that Irabagon celebrates, with grace, roistering charm and unbelievable creativity that eggs on his band mates to do the same.

It was Rollins who first used the extended solo, improvising continuously over Ray Brown's bass and Shelly Manne's drums. The practice arose not out of a sense of dominance or ego, but out of a genuine sense of extending a solo in counterpoint with the bass and drums. It made Rollins' tenor seem to tower over the power of sound. Tenor madness, not just the title, but the style of blowing the mind came next. Now, Irabagon picks up his tenor and not only pays tribute to Rollins' seminal album, but takes the act of soloing even further. Irabagon breaks the cycle of verse and chorus that typifies the sixteen-bar composition by improvising almost ceaselessly.

His opening salvo can be heard over bass and drums, as it gradually increases in volume, as if it has been going on for some time before the recorder captured the sound. The song morphs into a harmonic extravaganza, with tenor playing a mind-bending and ear-splitting role in breaking down not only melody, but in flowing from one segment to another seamlessly, as the song extends way past the sixteen-bar format. After the first such extension there is seemingly no stopping Irabagon, Altschul and Brendler. Encouraged by the saxophonist, the drummer and bassist explore with lavish changes in rhythm and harmony, the multi-angular approach to the basic song, "Foxy."

The elastic, evolutionary process continues through incarnations such as the racy and contrapuntal "Chicken Poxy," the rhythmically mesmerizing "Hydroxy," and the tantalizing harmony of "Unorthodoxy." Each rattles the cage of convention, deconstructing the melody with harmonic excursions that destroy conventional scales and expectations of consonance. Each also contains rhythmic double-stops and ostinato passages, stepping over quarter notes to make breathtaking leaps over planes that the song occupies. This multidimensional approach keeps the basic song alive at all times. With every change, leap and bound from one end of the saxophone's register to the other, the music comes alive with new parallel reality.

Track Listing: Foxy; Proxy; Chicken Poxy; Boxy; Hydroxy; Biloxi; Tsetse; Unorthodoxy; Epoxy; Roxy; Foxy (Radio Edit); Moxie.

Personnel: Jon Irabagon: tenor saxophone; Peter Brendler: bass; Barry Altschul: drums.

Title: Foxy | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Hot Cup Records

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