Friday, January 24, 2014


Jon Irabagon and Barry Altschul continue their musical partnership, this time behind eight of Irabagon's brand new originals, featuring Altschul's longtime rhythm teammate and bass virtuoso Mark Helias. It Takes All Kinds was recorded live at the Peitz Festival in Germany in June 2013 and will be released via a partnership between Irabagon's new Irabbagast Records and Germany's Jazzwerkstatt label.

Irabagon and Altschul's recorded work started with one of 2010's most celebrated recordings, Foxy (Hot Cup), and recently continued with Altschul's TUM Records release The 3Dom Factor. Altschul states, "The Foxy project was about keeping up an constant energy flow, in and out of defined time. With this new project, I'm freer and able to be more conceptual, catapulted by the directions of the compositions. I feel I use the entirety of my musical vocabulary, as do Jon and Mark. It's very liberating."

"Barry has been an inspiration to me ever since I bought Dave Holland's Conference of the Birds back in high school," Irabagon says. "His complete integration of the drum set and percussion instruments was a revelation, and for this record I wanted to make sure that some of his percussion options were available." The quicksilver interaction between that percussion and saxophone is on full display on tunes like Wherewithal and Vestiges, while the trio's ability to move like-mindedly and shift gears between uptempo swing and open, free time can be found on songs like Quintessential Kitten and Cutting Corners. All of these new compositions were written with Altschul and Helias in mind and provide open-ended jumping off points for group improvisation. Both the opener, Wherewithal, and the closer, Pause and Flip, feature compositional sections that blend seamlessly into open improvisations. Wherewithal draws from 20th century minimalism-the main improvisation section features an open Altschul solo over minutely shifting repeated lines from sax and bass.

This marriage of composition and improvisation is a top priority in this trio. "If Conference of the Birds was a catalyst for the open-minded music I would gravitate towards starting in high school, Mark Helias' record New School really keyed me in on the level of subtle interaction a consistently working trio can achieve. Seeing this growth in my own music on gigs and tours has been incredible."  The group's empathetic interaction is evident in the opening solo of Vestiges, where Irabagon and Altschul dovetail in and out of short solo phrases.  On Quintessential Kitten, bass wizard Helias and Irabagon trade open-ended phrases before Irabagon takes off on a stunning, spur-of-the-moment circular-breathing sixteenth note barrage.

Altschul and Helias have been a solid rhythm team since the late '70s, when they released several records as part of the Barry Altschul Trio. "Though I came to their music separately, I knew Barry and Mark have played together a lot, and I wanted to be in the middle of that interaction," Irabagon says. Altschul adds, "Playing with Mark is easy for me. We are able to move and change directions easily due to Mark being very flexible with a very large musical vocabulary and musical taste, as well as having the technique to play whatever he hears. Most importantly, whatever style of music is being played, Mark swings." This swagger is found in the Arabic-fueled Unconditional (where Altschul takes an open drum intro that references the entire history of the drums' role in jazz and improvised music), the medium bounce of Cutting Corners, the odd-metered Elusive and the understated, wide interval and chord extension-utilizing accompaniment of Sunrise.

Helias has plenty of room to showcase his diverse array of expression-various articulations, wide range slides, high and low extended techniques, masterful bow work and in-depth 20th century classical music and counterpoint knowledge-throughout the record, but nowhere more than on his two features, Elusive and Sunrise. On Cutting Corners, Helias gracefully pulls the kinetic energy that Irabagon leaves at the end of his solo down, while he prods both Irabagon and Altschul on the program closer Pause and Flip during the extended solo sections, drawing unique group improvisations from them. Irabagon states, "Many of the magical moments here were completely unplanned and have never happened before or since." The impromptu jump swing section in Wherewithal, the simultaneous high harmonics in the bass and melodic sax multiphonics in Elusive and the use of almost four octaves on sax on Cutting Corners are all unique moments from this concert from an 800 year old castle in rural Germany.

On this record, the third release on Irabbagast Records and the first collaboration with Jazzwerkstatt, Irabagon continues his search for all-inclusive, boundary-stretching improvisation, bringing together this coveted rhythm team for the first time on record in over twenty years.

Winner of the Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition and recently named Rising Star Tenor Saxophonist in DownBeat Magazine, Jon Irabagon launched his own record label, Irabbagast Records, in November 2012, releasing Outright! Unhinged and I Don't Hear Nothin' but the Blues Volume 2 simultaneously to rave reviews.  He was recently named one of New York City's 25 Jazz Icons by Time Out NY, and has recently been touring with the Dave Douglas Quintet, the Mary Halvorson Quintet and Mostly Other People Do the Killing.

Mark Helias is a renowned bassist and composer who has performed throughout the world for more than three decades. A prolific composer, Helias has written music for two feature films as well as chamber pieces and works for large ensemble and big band. He has over 12 albums as a leader to his credit. His trio, Open Loose with Tony Malaby and Tom Rainey, has become an archetypal improvising ensemble on the New York scene. He continues performing and recording with BassDrumBone, a three-decade-long collaboration with Gerry Hemingway and Ray Anderson. Mr. Helias performs solo bass concerts and can also be heard in the innovative bass duo, "The Marks Brothers," with fellow bassist Mark Dresser.

Barry Altschul has been a force in the creative music scene for over five decades. His initial work with the Paul Bley Trio led to his involvement with Chick Corea, Anthony Braxton and Dave Holland in the legendary group Circle, which released several albums on ECM. Also a part of the ARC trio, the Dave Holland Quartet, Anthony Braxton Quartet and the Sam Rivers Trio, Altschul effortlessly draws from all genres of the creative music spectrum, calling to mind Beaver Harris' phrase "from ragtime to no time." Altschul released his first album as a leader last year on TUM Records, with two more on the way.

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