Hot Cup 102 (www.joniribagon.com)
This is a thrilling album. It made the hairs stand up on my neck, with accompanying shivers. Despite listening to jazz as a regular pastime, this reaction is not common. Saxophonist Jon Irabagon, who won the 2008 Thelonious Monk competition and is clearly inspired by recordings of Sonny Rollins trios (remember Way Out West? ), leads a powerful threesome through what’s basically a 78-minute solo whose 11 “tune” titles merely indicate different approaches taken by his tenor horn to the standard 16-bar form. It starts with a roar and charges relentlessly from there, backed by furious drum assaults courtesy of Barry Altschul and muscular bass from Peter Brendler. It’s a swaggering, avant-garde outing that doesn’t rely on honks and squeals but could recall full bore Dexter Gordon or Johnny Griffin. This unflagging, exuberant long form improv is all high energy, suggesting origins in hard bop, swing and the blues. Irabagon, who plays differently and delightfully outside this studio context, isn’t breaking new ground save in solo magnitude, but he has certainly created an astonishing tour de force that underscores the spontaneity that’s at the heart of jazz. It’s exhausting to hear but it’s also exhilarating. Experiencing it deserves an accompanying T-shirt!