Band tours can be quite a wild experience, even when it involves nice and friendly jazz musicians. American tenor sax player Jon Irabagon portrays such a recent experience as an even wilder one, a macabre freak show. His quartet’s plus guest trumpeter Tim Hagans second album, «Dr. Quixotic’s Traveling Exotics», recorded in Buenos Aires, Argentina, while touring South America. «You are about to witness some if the most daring, the most precarious live acts that you will see in your lifetime», declares the liner notes. «This is not a magic show, no. The Danger is not an illusion. The hazard is real, and the risk absolute; the paths treacherours and the consequences dire …»
Irabagon himself is described in this liner notes as «the man who breathes fire through a brass»; pianist Luis Perdomo is compared to «ten thousand spider – like fingers cavorting, dancing and evading pitfall chord changes»; drummer Rudy Royston as «the man with limbs within limbs on drums» and double bass player Yasushi Nakamura as one with «the macabre pitch – black splendor of a soul, pouring out of a man’s body through vibrating strings». The liner notes also recommend all to «scream in nervous disbelief as you become one» with the music.
This tongue-in-cheek description capture the joyful spirit of this recording. Irabagon’s extended, labyrinthine pieces receives the funhouse mirror treatment and witty titles. These clever-playful compositions demand the quintet to bop, dance, groove and fly, to expect sudden twists, eccentric tricks and odd-meter rhythms as if it was a real freak show. Irabagon compositional ideas stress his encyclopedic knowledge of the jazz legacy, from the innocent New Orleans-ian dances to the most sophisticated and fiery strategies of free jazz – already established with the quartet Mostly Others Do the Killing – as well as his irreverent approach to this legacy.
But Irabagon also applies Joe McPhee advice. He takes his fun seriously, as serious as his own life. His playing is full of passion and charismatic power, charged with engaging elegance. And he is a generous leader who know how to make full use of the quartet plus Hagans’ high levels of energy during the lengthy tour, leaving enough space for all. Irabagon and his band can also be thoughtful and even restrain the urgent fun factor as on the suite «You Own Your Own» or in the most beautiful composition here, the emotional ballad «Pretty Like North Dakota».
Jon Irabagon (ts), Tim Hagans (tp), Luis Perdomo (p), Yasushi Nakamura (b), Rudy Royston (dr)