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Jon Irabagon / John Hegre / Nils Are Dronen - Axis Rating: 3-5 out of 5 "Axis" certainly confirms Irabagon's status as one of the most gifted sax improvisers on the planet.

Jon Irabagon / John Hegre / Nils Are Dronen

“Axis”

(Rune Grammofon RCD 2190 and RCD 3190)

Born in 1937 the Filipino-American saxophonist Jon Irabagon has been a fairly regular presence on the Jazzmann web pages, largely due to his involvement with the band Mostly Other People Do The Killing, led by bassist and composer Moppa Elliott. He has also been a member of MOPDTK associates Big Five Chord led by guitarist Jon Lundbom.

A serial collaborator the busy Irabagon works with musicians from both sides of the Atlantic and his other credits include membership of bands led by guitarist Mary Halvorson, trumpeter Dave Douglas and drummers Barry Altschul and Nathaniel Smith. He was recently sighted touring the UK as a member of Scottish drummer and composer Andrew Bain’s all star international Embodied Hope Quartet.

Alongside all of this Irabagon conducts a solo career, one that is just as diverse and interesting as his work with other people. A formidable technician he plays all the main members of the saxophone family with equal brilliance and has even announced his ambition to record a solo album on each of the major horns. He’s mainly associated with tenor and alto so I don’t think he’s got round to soprano and baritone just yet.

“Axis” finds Irabagon collaborating with the Norwegian musicians John Hegre (guitar) and Nils Are Dronen (drums). The pair have worked on projects together since 1995 as well as conducting solo careers and working with other musicians.

Hegre, aged 49, is also a songwriter and sound engineer and besides his jazz credentials is also a pioneer on the Norwegian noise music scene. He co-leads the band Jazkamer together with sound artist/vocalist Lasse Marhaug and has also worked with the bands The Golden Serenades and Kaptein Kaliber. Others with whom he has collaborated include experimental vocalist Maja Ratkje and the versatile Helge Sten aka Deathprod, musician, sound artist, producer and member of Supersilent. In all Hegre has appeared on a total nearly fifty recordings.

Like Hegre Dronen is based in Bergen and is also a member of Jazkamer. The two musicians are also members of the band The Last Hurrah! founded by guitarist and producer HP Gundersen. It was Gundersen who first met Irabagon in New York and subsequently introduced him to Hegre and Dronen when the American visited Bergen. Establishing a strong musical friendship with his Norwegian cohorts Irabagon guested on the Last Hurrah! album “The Beauty Of Fake”.

Irabagon’s bond with Hegre and Dronen subsequently led to this improvised trio recording recorded at two different sessions in two different locations in 2013 and 2015. The album consists of two lengthy improvised pieces ,which in the old days would have represented the two sides of a vinyl LP. And in 2017 that’s exactly what they have become again with Rune Grammofon also offering a vinyl version of this CD.

The first piece was recorded at N.K. Studios in Berlin on 11th June 2013. Simply titled “Berlin” it commences in unexpectedly ruminative fashion, particularly in view of the ‘noise’ credentials of the two Norwegians. Irabagon blows long, mournful tenor sax melody lines above Hegre’s shadowy guitar and Dronen’s furtive brushwork. The drummer’s role here is very much that of colourist, more Paul Motian than Paal Nilssen-Love. The music evolves slowly and organically, almost elegantly at first, but nevertheless begins to acquire a harder edge as it develops. Irabagon’s tone becomes harsher as he probes more deeply and introduces elements of harmolodics, Hegre widens his range of guitar effects and Dronen’s cymbal work becomes more vigorous. It’s only at around ten minutes in that the trio really begin to force the pace as Irabagon’s sax honks, squawks and squeals, his full on assault bolstered by the kinetic roiling of Dronen’s drums and the furious low end thrum of Hegre’s guitar. However even at his most belligerent Irabagon never entirely abandons his sense of melody, and no matter how loudly the trio rage the music never quite descends into cacophony. Eventually the fury reaches a peak and the music resolves itself with a slightly less fractious dialogue between Irabagon and Dronen, something that they seem to pick up on again some two years later at the start of the second piece.

On 14th January 2015 the trio found themselves in the studio again at New Combo in Fukoka, Japan. The piece “Fukoka” begins with the pecks and slurs of Irabagon’s sax, accompanied by the sounds of key pads and allied to low key commentary from Dronen and Hegre. A more edgy three way dialogue develops featuring Irabagon’s woozy, sometimes overblown sax, Hegre’s edgy, scratchy guitar and the busy shuffle of Dronen’s brushes. Hegre adopts a more strident, metallic guitar sound as he engages in an unsettling dialogue with Irabagon, the saxophonist periodically effecting a Coltrane like rasp. Then it’s back to a more hesitant three way exchange before the mood again becomes edgy and fractious with Hegre’s increasingly urgent guitar scratches and glissandos answered by Irabagon’s correspondingly bellicose saxophone. Eventually the tension is released via a lengthy and incendiary final section that has Irabagon and Hegre clashing head on, both totally ‘going for it’ in a shredding explosion of sound with sax and guitar both screaming fit for bust accompanied by the clatter of drums and the sizzle of cymbals.

“Fukoka” is more obviously ‘improvised’ than its more measured “Berlin” counterpart and makes greater use of extended sax and guitar techniques but both pieces have much to offer the adventurous listener. Irabagon’s astonishing technique is given free rein and inevitably impresses, as always. Nevertheless he’s given excellent support by his two Norwegian colleagues and one suspects that this trio would represent a tantalising and highly exciting live prospect. 

“Axis” is far from an easy listen and isn’t an album for the faint hearted but for all that it’s still more accessible than many free improv records. And it Jon Irabagon / John Hegre / Nils Are Dronen

“Axis”

(Rune Grammofon RCD 2190 and RCD 3190)

Born in 1937 the Filipino-American saxophonist Jon Irabagon has been a fairly regular presence on the Jazzmann web pages, largely due to his involvement with the band Mostly Other People Do The Killing, led by bassist and composer Moppa Elliott. He has also been a member of MOPDTK associates Big Five Chord led by guitarist Jon Lundbom.

A serial collaborator the busy Irabagon works with musicians from both sides of the Atlantic and his other credits include membership of bands led by guitarist Mary Halvorson, trumpeter Dave Douglas and drummers Barry Altschul and Nathaniel Smith. He was recently sighted touring the UK as a member of Scottish drummer and composer Andrew Bain’s all star international Embodied Hope Quartet.

Alongside all of this Irabagon conducts a solo career, one that is just as diverse and interesting as his work with other people. A formidable technician he plays all the main members of the saxophone family with equal brilliance and has even announced his ambition to record a solo album on each of the major horns. He’s mainly associated with tenor and alto so I don’t think he’s got round to soprano and baritone just yet.

“Axis” finds Irabagon collaborating with the Norwegian musicians John Hegre (guitar) and Nils Are Dronen (drums). The pair have worked on projects together since 1995 as well as conducting solo careers and working with other musicians.

Hegre, aged 49, is also a songwriter and sound engineer and besides his jazz credentials is also a pioneer on the Norwegian noise music scene. He co-leads the band Jazkamer together with sound artist/vocalist Lasse Marhaug and has also worked with the bands The Golden Serenades and Kaptein Kaliber. Others with whom he has collaborated include experimental vocalist Maja Ratkje and the versatile Helge Sten aka Deathprod, musician, sound artist, producer and member of Supersilent. In all Hegre has appeared on a total nearly fifty recordings.

Like Hegre Dronen is based in Bergen and is also a member of Jazkamer. The two musicians are also members of the band The Last Hurrah! founded by guitarist and producer HP Gundersen. It was Gundersen who first met Irabagon in New York and subsequently introduced him to Hegre and Dronen when the American visited Bergen. Establishing a strong musical friendship with his Norwegian cohorts Irabagon guested on the Last Hurrah! album “The Beauty Of Fake”.

Irabagon’s bond with Hegre and Dronen subsequently led to this improvised trio recording recorded at two different sessions in two different locations in 2013 and 2015. The album consists of two lengthy improvised pieces ,which in the old days would have represented the two sides of a vinyl LP. And in 2017 that’s exactly what they have become again with Rune Grammofon also offering a vinyl version of this CD.

The first piece was recorded at N.K. Studios in Berlin on 11th June 2013. Simply titled “Berlin” it commences in unexpectedly ruminative fashion, particularly in view of the ‘noise’ credentials of the two Norwegians. Irabagon blows long, mournful tenor sax melody lines above Hegre’s shadowy guitar and Dronen’s furtive brushwork. The drummer’s role here is very much that of colourist, more Paul Motian than Paal Nilssen-Love. The music evolves slowly and organically, almost elegantly at first, but nevertheless begins to acquire a harder edge as it develops. Irabagon’s tone becomes harsher as he probes more deeply and introduces elements of harmolodics, Hegre widens his range of guitar effects and Dronen’s cymbal work becomes more vigorous. It’s only at around ten minutes in that the trio really begin to force the pace as Irabagon’s sax honks, squawks and squeals, his full on assault bolstered by the kinetic roiling of Dronen’s drums and the furious low end thrum of Hegre’s guitar. However even at his most belligerent Irabagon never entirely abandons his sense of melody, and no matter how loudly the trio rage the music never quite descends into cacophony. Eventually the fury reaches a peak and the music resolves itself with a slightly less fractious dialogue between Irabagon and Dronen, something that they seem to pick up on again some two years later at the start of the second piece.

On 14th January 2015 the trio found themselves in the studio again at New Combo in Fukoka, Japan. The piece “Fukoka” begins with the pecks and slurs of Irabagon’s sax, accompanied by the sounds of key pads and allied to low key commentary from Dronen and Hegre. A more edgy three way dialogue develops featuring Irabagon’s woozy, sometimes overblown sax, Hegre’s edgy, scratchy guitar and the busy shuffle of Dronen’s brushes. Hegre adopts a more strident, metallic guitar sound as he engages in an unsettling dialogue with Irabagon, the saxophonist periodically effecting a Coltrane like rasp. Then it’s back to a more hesitant three way exchange before the mood again becomes edgy and fractious with Hegre’s increasingly urgent guitar scratches and glissandos answered by Irabagon’s correspondingly bellicose saxophone. Eventually the tension is released via a lengthy and incendiary final section that has Irabagon and Hegre clashing head on, both totally ‘going for it’ in a shredding explosion of sound with sax and guitar both screaming fit for bust accompanied by the clatter of drums and the sizzle of cymbals.

“Fukoka” is more obviously ‘improvised’ than its more measured “Berlin” counterpart and makes greater use of extended sax and guitar techniques but both pieces have much to offer the adventurous listener. Irabagon’s astonishing technique is given free rein and inevitably impresses, as always. Nevertheless he’s given excellent support by his two Norwegian colleagues and one suspects that this trio would represent a tantalising and highly exciting live prospect. 

“Axis” is far from an easy listen and isn’t an album for the faint hearted but for all that it’s still more accessible than many free improv records. And it certainly confirms Irabagon’s status as one of the most gifted sax improvisers on the planet. 

 

Axis

Jon Irabagon / John Hegre / Nils Are Dronen

Friday, March 10, 2017

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Axis

"Axis" certainly confirms Irabagon's status as one of the most gifted sax improvisers on the planet.

Jon Irabagon / John Hegre / Nils Are Dronen

“Axis”

(Rune Grammofon RCD 2190 and RCD 3190)

Born in 1937 the Filipino-American saxophonist Jon Irabagon has been a fairly regular presence on the Jazzmann web pages, largely due to his involvement with the band Mostly Other People Do The Killing, led by bassist and composer Moppa Elliott. He has also been a member of MOPDTK associates Big Five Chord led by guitarist Jon Lundbom.

A serial collaborator the busy Irabagon works with musicians from both sides of the Atlantic and his other credits include membership of bands led by guitarist Mary Halvorson, trumpeter Dave Douglas and drummers Barry Altschul and Nathaniel Smith. He was recently sighted touring the UK as a member of Scottish drummer and composer Andrew Bain’s all star international Embodied Hope Quartet.

Alongside all of this Irabagon conducts a solo career, one that is just as diverse and interesting as his work with other people. A formidable technician he plays all the main members of the saxophone family with equal brilliance and has even announced his ambition to record a solo album on each of the major horns. He’s mainly associated with tenor and alto so I don’t think he’s got round to soprano and baritone just yet.

“Axis” finds Irabagon collaborating with the Norwegian musicians John Hegre (guitar) and Nils Are Dronen (drums). The pair have worked on projects together since 1995 as well as conducting solo careers and working with other musicians.

Hegre, aged 49, is also a songwriter and sound engineer and besides his jazz credentials is also a pioneer on the Norwegian noise music scene. He co-leads the band Jazkamer together with sound artist/vocalist Lasse Marhaug and has also worked with the bands The Golden Serenades and Kaptein Kaliber. Others with whom he has collaborated include experimental vocalist Maja Ratkje and the versatile Helge Sten aka Deathprod, musician, sound artist, producer and member of Supersilent. In all Hegre has appeared on a total nearly fifty recordings.

Like Hegre Dronen is based in Bergen and is also a member of Jazkamer. The two musicians are also members of the band The Last Hurrah! founded by guitarist and producer HP Gundersen. It was Gundersen who first met Irabagon in New York and subsequently introduced him to Hegre and Dronen when the American visited Bergen. Establishing a strong musical friendship with his Norwegian cohorts Irabagon guested on the Last Hurrah! album “The Beauty Of Fake”.

Irabagon’s bond with Hegre and Dronen subsequently led to this improvised trio recording recorded at two different sessions in two different locations in 2013 and 2015. The album consists of two lengthy improvised pieces ,which in the old days would have represented the two sides of a vinyl LP. And in 2017 that’s exactly what they have become again with Rune Grammofon also offering a vinyl version of this CD.

The first piece was recorded at N.K. Studios in Berlin on 11th June 2013. Simply titled “Berlin” it commences in unexpectedly ruminative fashion, particularly in view of the ‘noise’ credentials of the two Norwegians. Irabagon blows long, mournful tenor sax melody lines above Hegre’s shadowy guitar and Dronen’s furtive brushwork. The drummer’s role here is very much that of colourist, more Paul Motian than Paal Nilssen-Love. The music evolves slowly and organically, almost elegantly at first, but nevertheless begins to acquire a harder edge as it develops. Irabagon’s tone becomes harsher as he probes more deeply and introduces elements of harmolodics, Hegre widens his range of guitar effects and Dronen’s cymbal work becomes more vigorous. It’s only at around ten minutes in that the trio really begin to force the pace as Irabagon’s sax honks, squawks and squeals, his full on assault bolstered by the kinetic roiling of Dronen’s drums and the furious low end thrum of Hegre’s guitar. However even at his most belligerent Irabagon never entirely abandons his sense of melody, and no matter how loudly the trio rage the music never quite descends into cacophony. Eventually the fury reaches a peak and the music resolves itself with a slightly less fractious dialogue between Irabagon and Dronen, something that they seem to pick up on again some two years later at the start of the second piece.

On 14th January 2015 the trio found themselves in the studio again at New Combo in Fukoka, Japan. The piece “Fukoka” begins with the pecks and slurs of Irabagon’s sax, accompanied by the sounds of key pads and allied to low key commentary from Dronen and Hegre. A more edgy three way dialogue develops featuring Irabagon’s woozy, sometimes overblown sax, Hegre’s edgy, scratchy guitar and the busy shuffle of Dronen’s brushes. Hegre adopts a more strident, metallic guitar sound as he engages in an unsettling dialogue with Irabagon, the saxophonist periodically effecting a Coltrane like rasp. Then it’s back to a more hesitant three way exchange before the mood again becomes edgy and fractious with Hegre’s increasingly urgent guitar scratches and glissandos answered by Irabagon’s correspondingly bellicose saxophone. Eventually the tension is released via a lengthy and incendiary final section that has Irabagon and Hegre clashing head on, both totally ‘going for it’ in a shredding explosion of sound with sax and guitar both screaming fit for bust accompanied by the clatter of drums and the sizzle of cymbals.

“Fukoka” is more obviously ‘improvised’ than its more measured “Berlin” counterpart and makes greater use of extended sax and guitar techniques but both pieces have much to offer the adventurous listener. Irabagon’s astonishing technique is given free rein and inevitably impresses, as always. Nevertheless he’s given excellent support by his two Norwegian colleagues and one suspects that this trio would represent a tantalising and highly exciting live prospect. 

“Axis” is far from an easy listen and isn’t an album for the faint hearted but for all that it’s still more accessible than many free improv records. And it Jon Irabagon / John Hegre / Nils Are Dronen

“Axis”

(Rune Grammofon RCD 2190 and RCD 3190)

Born in 1937 the Filipino-American saxophonist Jon Irabagon has been a fairly regular presence on the Jazzmann web pages, largely due to his involvement with the band Mostly Other People Do The Killing, led by bassist and composer Moppa Elliott. He has also been a member of MOPDTK associates Big Five Chord led by guitarist Jon Lundbom.

A serial collaborator the busy Irabagon works with musicians from both sides of the Atlantic and his other credits include membership of bands led by guitarist Mary Halvorson, trumpeter Dave Douglas and drummers Barry Altschul and Nathaniel Smith. He was recently sighted touring the UK as a member of Scottish drummer and composer Andrew Bain’s all star international Embodied Hope Quartet.

Alongside all of this Irabagon conducts a solo career, one that is just as diverse and interesting as his work with other people. A formidable technician he plays all the main members of the saxophone family with equal brilliance and has even announced his ambition to record a solo album on each of the major horns. He’s mainly associated with tenor and alto so I don’t think he’s got round to soprano and baritone just yet.

“Axis” finds Irabagon collaborating with the Norwegian musicians John Hegre (guitar) and Nils Are Dronen (drums). The pair have worked on projects together since 1995 as well as conducting solo careers and working with other musicians.

Hegre, aged 49, is also a songwriter and sound engineer and besides his jazz credentials is also a pioneer on the Norwegian noise music scene. He co-leads the band Jazkamer together with sound artist/vocalist Lasse Marhaug and has also worked with the bands The Golden Serenades and Kaptein Kaliber. Others with whom he has collaborated include experimental vocalist Maja Ratkje and the versatile Helge Sten aka Deathprod, musician, sound artist, producer and member of Supersilent. In all Hegre has appeared on a total nearly fifty recordings.

Like Hegre Dronen is based in Bergen and is also a member of Jazkamer. The two musicians are also members of the band The Last Hurrah! founded by guitarist and producer HP Gundersen. It was Gundersen who first met Irabagon in New York and subsequently introduced him to Hegre and Dronen when the American visited Bergen. Establishing a strong musical friendship with his Norwegian cohorts Irabagon guested on the Last Hurrah! album “The Beauty Of Fake”.

Irabagon’s bond with Hegre and Dronen subsequently led to this improvised trio recording recorded at two different sessions in two different locations in 2013 and 2015. The album consists of two lengthy improvised pieces ,which in the old days would have represented the two sides of a vinyl LP. And in 2017 that’s exactly what they have become again with Rune Grammofon also offering a vinyl version of this CD.

The first piece was recorded at N.K. Studios in Berlin on 11th June 2013. Simply titled “Berlin” it commences in unexpectedly ruminative fashion, particularly in view of the ‘noise’ credentials of the two Norwegians. Irabagon blows long, mournful tenor sax melody lines above Hegre’s shadowy guitar and Dronen’s furtive brushwork. The drummer’s role here is very much that of colourist, more Paul Motian than Paal Nilssen-Love. The music evolves slowly and organically, almost elegantly at first, but nevertheless begins to acquire a harder edge as it develops. Irabagon’s tone becomes harsher as he probes more deeply and introduces elements of harmolodics, Hegre widens his range of guitar effects and Dronen’s cymbal work becomes more vigorous. It’s only at around ten minutes in that the trio really begin to force the pace as Irabagon’s sax honks, squawks and squeals, his full on assault bolstered by the kinetic roiling of Dronen’s drums and the furious low end thrum of Hegre’s guitar. However even at his most belligerent Irabagon never entirely abandons his sense of melody, and no matter how loudly the trio rage the music never quite descends into cacophony. Eventually the fury reaches a peak and the music resolves itself with a slightly less fractious dialogue between Irabagon and Dronen, something that they seem to pick up on again some two years later at the start of the second piece.

On 14th January 2015 the trio found themselves in the studio again at New Combo in Fukoka, Japan. The piece “Fukoka” begins with the pecks and slurs of Irabagon’s sax, accompanied by the sounds of key pads and allied to low key commentary from Dronen and Hegre. A more edgy three way dialogue develops featuring Irabagon’s woozy, sometimes overblown sax, Hegre’s edgy, scratchy guitar and the busy shuffle of Dronen’s brushes. Hegre adopts a more strident, metallic guitar sound as he engages in an unsettling dialogue with Irabagon, the saxophonist periodically effecting a Coltrane like rasp. Then it’s back to a more hesitant three way exchange before the mood again becomes edgy and fractious with Hegre’s increasingly urgent guitar scratches and glissandos answered by Irabagon’s correspondingly bellicose saxophone. Eventually the tension is released via a lengthy and incendiary final section that has Irabagon and Hegre clashing head on, both totally ‘going for it’ in a shredding explosion of sound with sax and guitar both screaming fit for bust accompanied by the clatter of drums and the sizzle of cymbals.

“Fukoka” is more obviously ‘improvised’ than its more measured “Berlin” counterpart and makes greater use of extended sax and guitar techniques but both pieces have much to offer the adventurous listener. Irabagon’s astonishing technique is given free rein and inevitably impresses, as always. Nevertheless he’s given excellent support by his two Norwegian colleagues and one suspects that this trio would represent a tantalising and highly exciting live prospect. 

“Axis” is far from an easy listen and isn’t an album for the faint hearted but for all that it’s still more accessible than many free improv records. And it certainly confirms Irabagon’s status as one of the most gifted sax improvisers on the planet. 

 


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