(Innova)

Alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon’s debut is a delight. Simple as that. The motives are in our face since the very beginning: great tones, sharp tunes, lots of tongue-in-cheek hints and winks, an outrageous technical grounding by the concerned musicians: Russ Johnson (trumpet), Kris Davis (piano, organ), Eivind Opsvik (acoustic bass) and Jeff Davis (drums). A quintet that’s a pleasure to hear, carrying out a fresh intermingling of jazz and related stories, spitting pieces of lungs in choral hymns, nearly mimicking Carlos Santana’s heartfelt unhurriedness, going bonkers as in the best freeform traditions. It’s difficult to wear the critic’s clothing when one puts this CD in the Discman at 8:00 AM and begins to sense the liveliness springing off each note, while the sun starts mounting and the hill in front of the train station reveals its greenest green. This is what occurred a few mornings ago to yours truly, a day that had been preceded by an almost sleepless night thus deviated on the right track. I should let you know more on the curriculum of the leader, whom the author had first encountered in the amazing “Shamokin!!!” by Moppa Elliott’s Mostly Other People Do The Killing, a reference point for an album like this. Irabagon is academically trained yet his musicianship comes from the incalculable number of live gigs that he attends in Chicago and New York, plus the myriad of experiences as a sideman in groups whose genres correspond to the whole extent of contemporary music. There’s something for most everybody here, just follow the good vibrations and you’re going to be in high spirits, at least for an abundant hour.

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