Sunday, August 4, 2013

Catching Up With Down Beat Rising Tenor Saxophone Star Jon Irabagon!

irabagon_michael_hoefner1 Continuing my conversation with Jon Irabagon Part 2 can be found at:

Finally...In that same vein with the readers having voted for you in the most prestigious Down Beat poll, do you get a feeling of validation that perhaps some critics have not been as aware of you and others tend to vote for the same people in the same categories repeatedly? In short, what makes a good critic? Some musicians hold to the notion only someone with a decade of experience on a bandstand can write about music and to me that is the equivalent of saying only an Oscar winner can review a film.

J.I. - "Validation?  Not really.  I think receiving awards and recognition is a good thing, and can help out a lot, but if that's what I was doing this for, I'd have left the music scene a long time ago.  It is good to know that there are people out there who are touched by my music, both fans and critics. 

As far as what I feel makes a good critic, I would think I'd look for the same qualities that I look for in musicians that I play with.  Some of these qualities include having an open mind and open ears to new or different sounds, feeling up for listening to more than just one song or album of a player to try to see a bigger picture of where they are coming from with their music, feeling empathy for where they are coming from and genuinely trying to hear what the musician is trying to say. 

I think everyone can and should have their opinion of the music they listen to, and the more knowledge a person brings to the table, the more their review has weight and validity behind it."

O.K. - Really, "finally"...What is up next for Jon?

J.I. - "I have a new trio record coming out in October with Barry Altschul and Mark Helias, a live concert from the Peitz Festival outside of Berlin, recorded in June.  It's a trio that has been working for around a year, and I've been writing new music to feature Barry and Mark.  We had toured Europe in April, so the music was ready to go, and I'm really happy with the result.  It's definitely a bridge between the standard blowout of Foxy and my compositions, where I try to capture the same feeling of continuous group dynamics and interplay, couched in songs that highlight the hookup between Barry and Mark, who have been recording and playing together for over 30 years.  When I was in high school, Dave Holland's record "Conference of the Birds" (on which Barry plays drums and percussion) was a huge inspiration for me, and when I was in college, my friends and I wore out our copies of Mark Helias' album "New School," and it's been a dream of mine to get these two musicians together and play some of my music.  I'm hoping to keep the band working and playing more and more, and write more music for the group.

In addition, there are new septet records coming out in the fall with both Mostly Other People do the Killing (adding Brandon Seabrook, Dave Taylor and Ron Stabinski to the group) and Mary Halvorson (adding Ingrid Laubrock and Jacob Garchik to the quintet).  I'm doing some extensive traveling with the Dave Douglas Quintet the rest of this year, and Barry Altschul's trio (featuring myself and Joe Fonda) are playing shows to celebrate his 70th birthday as well as our release on TUM Records, the "Threedom Factor."  A band I've been playing with for a long time, Jon Lundbom and Big Five Chord is releasing a double live record called "Liverevil," and an avant-country group I play in called Bryan and the Haggards is releasing an album of all Merle Haggard tunes that features Eugene Chadbourne called "Merles Just Wanna Have Fun."  I've also just started writing music for a movie that will hopefully be coming out near the end of the year."

Congratulations to Jon, be on the lookout for the releases mentioned above and hit his web site at!