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Jon Irabagon: It Takes All Kinds

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Jon Irabagon: It Takes All Kinds It Takes All Kinds is the third recorded collaboration between prolific tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon and a great drummer, Barry Altschul. The first, Irabagon's Foxy (Hot cup, 2010) featured double bassist Peter Brendler. The second, Altschul's The 3dom Factor (TUM, 2013) featured double bass player Joe Fonda. The most recent one features Altschul's longtime rhythm teammate, double bassist virtuoso Mark Helias. Irabagon, Altschul and Helias are each highly creative musicians with distinct, dominant voices nurtured by an extensive, diverse array of expressions.

Irabagon divides his career between being a key player in ensembles like the quartet Mostly Other People Do the Killing,and the Dave Douglas and Mary Halvorson quintets or leading looser, intimate outfits that emphasize his ability as an articulate free improviser, as on his collaborations with drummer Mike Pride for I Don't Hear Nothin' but the Blues and I Don't Hear Nothin' but the Blue Volume 2: Appalachian Blues (Loyal Label and Irabbagast, 2009 and 2012). It Takes All Kinds belongs to the latter category and features eight original compositions of Irabagon, recorded live at the Peitz Festival in Germany in June 2013. All owe much to the formative influence of Dave Holland's Conference of the birds (ECM, 1973), in which Altschul played, and Helias' Open Loose New School (Enja, 2001) featuring Irabagon.

The first pieces "Wherewithal" and "Vestiges" demonstrate the immediate, deep interaction between Irabagon and Altschul. Both shift quickly and organically between powerful jump swinging segments and free, even minimalist, pulse, especially on the latter where Irabagon, Altschul, and later Helias, dovetail in and out of short solo phrases. "Quitessential Kitten" is a tour-de-force showcase by Irabagon, featuring his encyclopedic knowledge of jazz legacy through its many eras and his total command of circular breathing. The massive rhythm section of Altschucl and Helias challenge him on the slow, odd-metered "Elusive," that also features Helias' superb bow solo.

"Unconditional" opens with a drum solo referencing almost all the history of the drums' role in jazz and free improvised music, followed by a Middle-Eastern-tinged sax theme, then solidified by telepathic interplay. A Helias masterful Helias solo opens "Sunrise" to set the atmosphere for this contemplative piece with thoughtful, spare additions. The trio closes its performance with the powerful, improvised "Pause and Flip," a piece that enables all three to embark on impressive solos.

Irabagon describes this recording as "melodic, mature, respectful and balanced" He is obviously correct, but also very modest.


Track Listing: Wherewithal; Vestiges; Quintessential Kitten; Elusive; Cutting Corners; Unconditional Sunrise; Pause and Flip.

Personnel: Jon Irabagon: tenor saxophone; Mark Helias: double bass; Barry Altschul: drums.

Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Jazzwerkstatt Berlin-brandenburg E.v. | Style: Modern Jazz


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