Saxophonist Jon Irabagon rose to prominence in Mostly Other People Do the Killing, the eclectic, ironic, virtuosic band that has redefined the parameters of jazz with post-modern pastiche since 2003. His current projects stretch from the modern mainstream to solo sopranino concerts. This quartet is rooted in post-bop (the 60s Jazz Messengers and tenor saxophonists Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson: riffs, vamps, ostinatos, modes) but has its own approach, with a breadth that extends comfortably forward.
Irabagon sticks to his tenor here, and his big sound and hard-edged authority are apparent from his introduction to The Demon Barber of Fleet Week (the CD has a medicine/freak show theme), focusing the coiled energy of a working band, recorded while on tour in Buenos Aires. Pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Rudy Royston all exude the same intense command of a complex language.
Veteran trumpeter Tim Hagans (he first recorded in 1974) joins the group on several tracks, a restrained complement to the leader’s bustle. He’s at his finest on Pretty like North Dakota, from the keening, Miles-like muted playing to the dark, brassy burr of his open sound. The multi-dimensional ballad demonstrates different sides of each member: Perdomo’s translucent grace, Nakamura’s flowing lyricism and Royston’s orchestral drama. Irabagon plays booting tenor, building from blues roots to Coltrane-like flurries, before he and Hagans conclude with an improvised dialogue that crowns both the 15-minute tune and the CD as a whole.