If Foxy was a test of endurance, It Takes All Kinds is its continuation in the most expansive of senses. The latest release from saxophonist Jon Irabagon, bassist Mark Helias and percussionist Barry Altschul is a freeing collection of open-minded statements and songs. It bursts like fireworks and it settles in like slow, dark walks down slow, dark roads — often all at once.
The “trick” for Irabagon has always been his ability to pack dozens of expressions into one blast of momentum. That magic is on display again with It Takes All Kinds, but one could argue that his attack feels even more focused on this outing.
Of course, it helps that the expert playing of Altschul and Helias promotes the sort of liberty that an artist like Irabagon can thrive in. They use every word in their proverbial dictionaries to feed the environment, too, so that helps generate a consistency in the interaction between players. Everybody becomes better through this atmosphere of trust and creativity.
And so It Takes All Kinds takes said atmosphere to the 2013 Peitz Festival in Germany, where the aforementioned trio proceeded to blow the pants off a vibrant and clearly appreciative throng.
Indeed it would be hard to sit on one’s hands once the comical phrasing of “Wherewithal” takes hold. It’s a piece that almost demands reaction, serving as a provocation with its wisecracks and boundary-pushing. Listen as Irabagon builds a light touch of notes into a flavorful stew of melody and punch. It’s made all the better when it falls part just as the trio seems set to take it on the highway.
These expressive moments are everywhere on the record, but perhaps there’s no better showcase of Irabagon’s dexterity than on “Quintessential Kitten.” Always known as a demonically quick player, he boots it through an eddying bundle of sixteenth notes and somehow comes out in one piece on the other side.
Because that wasn’t enough, the odd-metered caress of “Elusive” features Irabagon’s snakelike sax scavenging for new melodic heights alongside Altschul’s exploratory percussion. And “Unconditional,” with Altschul’s three-minute introduction, is a delectably spicy piece that coils with the grounded swinging of Helias’ bass.
This performance, gratefully put into history on It Takes All Kinds, showcases Irabagon, Helias and Altschul in their element as they rock the foundations of an 800-year-old castle. In other words, it’s just another day at the office for these cats.
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