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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Andrew Barker + Jon Irabagon Duo – Anemone (Radical Documents, 2021)****

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

Livingon the margins of Europe makes it very easy to miss out a lot of the current interesting stuff happening in the world of free jazz and free improvisation. Especially when we are talking about what has always been (and will be) the nucleus of jazz based music –the live performance- not many artists come to play in a country torn by an endless financial crisis and amoral politicians. I know by fact that many othem would be thrilled to visit by the way…

This would be the case for Jon Irabagon (who plays tenor saxophone on Anemone) if I hadn’t caught, live in Athens, Mostly Other People Do The Killing, a quartet that incorporated all the basic elements of free improvisation and free playing – humor, collectivity and not taking yourself seriously. Even if I haven’t listened to many other of Irabagon’s recordings, this gig made me realize how open, engaging and ready to go everywhere his playing was. I have written before about Andrew Barker (here on drums and percussion) here. His balance between playing freely and integrating parts of the great jazz tradition in his playing adds up to, already, being one of my favorite percussionists in duos with reedists (for example: Charles Waters).

It was about that time that I wrote something about Radical Documents, a Los Angeles based small label that (I do not want to say specializes, I hate this word) focuses on weird sound ranging from acoustic improvisation and experimentation up to free jazz blow outs. For all of you free anything aficionados, I urge you to check out the duo of Ben Hall and Don Dietrich from 2019, some stuff from Crazy Doberman (John Olson from the Wolf Eyes is involved there) and the latest quartet from Fritz Welch, Pat Foley, Andrew Barker and the great Daniel Carter. They are all amazing and worth buying.

What about Anemone though? This four track recording is a free jazz, quite improvisational workout that ranges from noise blowouts up to the almost microtonal percussion work of Barker. The two artists know their way into collective playing, sharing thoughts and ideas, leaving room to each other. But Anemone is not about soloists who also leave space for each other. There’s a constant flow of duo playing (one that could remind us the seminal Rashied Ali/Frank Lowe duo perhaps) that grasps you, leaving you no other choice than to listen and is so relaxed at the same time. I, kind of at least, believe that Barker’s playing is responsible for this. His presence is commanding and crucial to Anemone, but not by getting in they of his fellow musician

There’s a leaderless ethos in all four tracks of the cd –another integral part of playing free. The tenor sax of Irabagon is a treat but you need to listen repeatedly. In the beginning he seems like he is following, trying to bring some melody into his fierce playing, but as the music evolves, one has no other solution than to realize that he was at the front from the beginning, exchanging ideas and energy with the drums. Not so many silences, but a continuous play (and playful) in all four tracks. Go buy the cd, both the artists and the label deserve it.



Richard said...

oh, this is good. And always happy to discover a new creative music label. Thanks, Fotis.