Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Jon Irabagon, Behind the Sky

Jon Irabagon has been quite prolific of late. I covered the new MOPDtK the other day on these pages, there is a solo album that I'll be covering soon and a Barry Altschul Trio recording as well. But today a quintet gathering--for Behind the Sky (Irabbagast 004). It is about loss and the mourning process, as well as a celebration of the life of some loved ones and mentors he has lost recently.

Now none of the music sounds like a funeral march, mind you, because Jon channels his feelings in affirming ways. What it all is about is a series of 11 originals that work themselves out with a changes-oriented approach that I suppose one could call "mainstream," yet it all has a living quality that doesn't put it in the "safe" music realm. It all breathes.

Joining Jon is his regular trio of Luis Perdomo on piano, Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Rudy Royston on drums (!), and they sound absolutely great here. Then trumpet and flugel icon Tom Harrell joins in on three numbers and sounds as masterful as ever.

For all the hubbub of Blue, which MOPDtK released a while ago and apparently still is raising hackles out there, in Jon's playing on the album I cannot help but detect just a pinch of mid-period Trane and Cannonball. Not so much as you would say he is channeling them, because it is all Jon, but in the phrasings and masterboplicitous flow of his exceptional noteful barrages you can hear a little of them, but made original as one would expect from Jon at all times. So Blue in the end was a stepping stone to something new as much as it was a statement in itself. Artists work that way, yes. Growth is a growth "through," not just a willy-nilly sprouting upwards like the wild weeds of seasons come and gone.

All this is secondary to the music at hand, which is something to hear and appreciate, and, of course is another stepping-stone to future Irabagonian developments. If he looks back as he looks ahead, it is fitting here especially as a memorialisation of those he has lost, of our continual loss of the old present made way for, the inexorable movement we sometimes wish could stop for a while, but both organically, culturally and historically it cannot.

You need not know any of this to dig the music, which has an edgy fire to it, a cohesiveness of all, and three excellent soloists--Luis P. is supercharged here, too.

The rhythm section hits it hard and burningly, make no mistake. Rudy is a firebrand on the date and Yasushi is right there, also.

It may be yet another way station on the continuing Irabagon journey, but it also is vibrantly alive music, excellent for both the fire and reflectiveness of it altogether. Jon is challenging himself and his contemporaries to keep on. They do. And the music that results embodies the past and moves it to the ever-present now in very enjoyable and considerably brilliant ways.

Highly recommended.

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