Jon Irabagon trio at Cornelia St cafe - NYC, Apr 23

  • photography by Clara Pereira / text by Filipe Freitas

The snappy saxophonist Jon Irabagon seems capable of playing consecutive swift phrases for an infinite time. His magnificent album, ‘Behind the Sky’, was a highlight from last year.
For this concert, in order to play his originals and a few standards, he has opted to bring a trio. Chris Lightcap on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums formed an elastic rhythm section that suited perfectly his dynamic attacks on tenor.

The concert started with a delay due to a flood in front of the stage, a setback that invalidated the first set, but didn’t remove the enthusiasm of the audience that waited patiently for the second, scheduled one hour after.

The first tune, ‘Unconditional’, showed Lightcap and Cleaver creating a fluid locomotion, which promptly leaded to Irabagon’s improvisation, a feverish melodic vortex punctuated with occasional pops and growls. This colorful mood evolves dramatically to a tense rock, closer to those grey harmonies and robotic beats of Nine Inch Nails. The unpredictability of Lightcap was simply remarkable here.

The second tune was a stirring swing song with hints of Latin, which stimulated Irabagon’s creative freedom while maintained a consistent but always diversified rhythmic basis. Without stopping, the trio entered in the third composition, claiming a time to slow down. The tune featured the leader’s beseeching saxophone in a captivating unnacompanied solo. Later on, Cleaver also had his moment to shine while Lightcap remained in an eloquent ground bass.

A loose interpretation of Billy Strayhorn’s ‘Lush Life’ was delivered with the maximum competence. Lightcap and Irabagon were the soloists.

The last tune, entitled ‘Duplo’, is a brand new one. It was carried out with a bebop feeling but shooted in other directions, evoking Latin and Indian traditions.

Overall, this was a positive and energetic performance whose only sin was being short in duration.