Jon Irabagon: January Dream


January Dream


Jon Irabagon (alto sax)


The Observer (Concord 31319)

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Jon Irabagon (alto sax), Kenny Barron (piano), Rufus Reid (bass), Victor Lewis (drums).

Composed by Jon Irabagon


Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, May 19 & 21, 2009


Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

Did you ever have to make up your mind? asks an old rock song. For many jazz musicians, the answer is a resolute no. Jon Irabagon, who won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2008, is still in the early stages of his career, but he is already hard to pin down. His last release excited the influential clique who are convinced that progressive jazz must charge into the future imitating models from fifty years ago. For my part, I have a hard time gorking the concept that the future was then—there must be some Einsteinian time-space angle on it beyond my grasp—but I do relate to the grooving, straightahead swing of Irabagon's new project The Observer. "January Dream," the opening track, is old school, with its slow ramble on Blue Note-ish changes in Rudy's star chamber. The rhythm section is made up of the same guys Stan Getz was gigging with a quarter of a century ago, and though they might be the last folks you would expect to see along with Irabagon, they play admirably. The saxophonist for his part delivers his phrases with conviction and a very big sound—which I like, but I can hardly believe that this is the same horn player I heard back in his Charles Barkley days. In short, I am ready to buy in to this version of Mr. Irabagon, but I have no confidence that his next appearance will bear any resemblance to the artist presented here. Did you ever have to finally decide?

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


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