Aaron Irwin Group: Wide Awake

John Kelman By

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Still only twenty-five years old, saxophonist Aaron Irwin has already amassed an impressive resume. He has recorded commissioned work by Maria Schneider, performed on a live disc with Tom Harrell, toured with the Tommy Dorsey Big Band, and played with a wide range of artists, including Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman and Nicholas Payton. Recipient of many awards, including a number of Downbeat magazine awards for outstanding performance, he now resides in New York City, where he is active as an educator and performer. With Wide Awake , he finally steps out on his own, with an album of seven original compositions that highlight an artist who, at the very least, demonstrates a good deal of promise.

Irwin's compositions fall cleanly in the contemporary jazz arena; Ryan Weaver's Fender Rhodes work takes what might be a more mainstream affair, giving it a stronger contemporary edge. Drummer Vinnie Sperrezza swings but also leans towards the kind of textural colour that one might hear from Paul Motian. Matt Clohesy and Jeff Kraly split bass duties, with Clohesy delivering a lyrical solo on "Folks I Dig," one of the more interesting tunes of the set, with its constantly shifting tempo.

Irwin is a fine player on both alto and soprano, with a subtle vibrato; given that this is his date, the obvious criticism would be that he needs to develop a more distinct voice. Armed with admirable technique, he navigates the material, including "Cheeky," which is an homage to Chris Cheek, and "Swallow This," which references Steve Swallow's classic "Falling Grace" with self-possession and a certain amount of flair. There is a maturity evidenced by his penchant for finding the melodies at the essence of the tunes; but while he clearly possesses an ability to play and write accessible compositions there is little, at this point, to distinguish him.

Still, for a first effort from such a young player, Wide Awake demonstrates a clear talent in the making. Engaging, thoughtful and completely devoid of the youthful tendency to prove himself with excessive displays of technique, Aaron Irwin is already well on his way; the only ingredient left now is time.

Track Listing: Wide Awake; Cheeky; Dig Big; Cinder on an Ash Block; Folks I Dig; Swallow This; It's Time To Go.

Personnel: Aaron Irwin: alto and soprano saxophone; Bryan Murray: tenor saxophone (2, 5, 7); Ryan Weaver: Fender Rhodes; Matt Clohesy: bass (2, 5-7); Jeff Kraly: bass (1, 3, 4); Vinnie Sperrazza: drums.

Title: Wide Awake | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Self Produced


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