Jon Irabagon: Inaction is an Action & Behind the Sky

Doug Collette By

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It's a rare musician who can find ways to excel in multiple contexts, but saxophonist/composer Jon Irabagon is just such an artist. His timeline contains entries as collaborator as well as leader and his respective contributions are equally distinctive, suggesting his humility is equaled only by his independence. Because the nuances of his compositions are as fine as those of his musicianship, the sum effect of Irabagon's artistic arc conjures up the compelling notion that he is not only an artist of self-renewing potential, but one whose career will extend for some great duration, precisely due to its very diversity.

Jon Irabagon
Inaction is an Action

To hear this saxophonist play all by himself is to hear imagination fully unfurled and here, recorded at Chicago's Lakeview Presbyterian Church, Irabagon explores the possibilities of not just his own finely-honed skill, but those of his chosen instrument, in this case the sopranino saxophone. There are times, such as "The Best Kind of Sad," that Irabagon leaves technique behind altogether and, in doing so, conjures a palpably visceral sensation. But that's not to deny the delicate moments within "Hang Out a Shingle" or the whimsy of "Ambiwintrous," both of which are of a piece with the music of unfettered abandon surrounding them. Striving to escape the boundaries imposed by both the solo as well as the ensemble setting, Jon Irabagon here is offering a self-created moment of truth which may not suit those faint of heart or mind, but remains admirable in both conception and execution.

Jon Irabagon
Behind the Sky

As Jon Irabagon asserts himself as a composer and player here, he doesn't so much impose his will on the estimable company surrounding him—trumpeter/flugelhornman Tom Harrell, drummer Rudy Royston, pianist Luis Perdomo and bassist Yasushi Nakamura—as offer a standing invitation to collaborate on that elevated level of artistry to which he aspires. It's symbolic of the versatility within this quintet they are able to begin on a wholly accessible level and quickly proceed into invigorating exchanges where the dialogue behind the soloist is as compelling as the most prominent player. In such interactions, humility and confidence go hand in hand with self-discipline tempered with healthy sense of adventure: Jon Irabagon and his band refuses to allow itself or their music to remain mere background sound.

Tracks and Personnel

Inaction is an Action

Tracks: Revvvv; Acrobat; What Have We Here; The Best Kind of Sad; Hang Out a Shingle; Ambiwinxtrous; Liquid Fire; Alps.

Personnel: Jon Irabagon: sopranino saxophone.

Behind the Sky

Tracks: 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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