Saxophonist Jon Irabagon (Dave Douglas Quintet, Mostly Other People Do The Killing) teams up with Jazkamer's guitarist John Hegre and drummer Nils Are Drønen for two extended pieces recorded live in Berlin and Fukuoka. In Berlin, he starts off playing slow, mantra-like phrases that begin to distort and come apart as they reach their endpoint. Behind him, Hegre's guitar slides and moans and Drønen's drums thump and rattle ominously. But at the piece's halfway mark Irabagon's horn starts squawking and sputtering, the guitar is almost riffing, and the drummer knocks the kit around in earnest. Eventually, it's full-on skronk fury. In Fukuoka, they're more patient, sticking to atmospheric for nearly 13 of 19 minutes. But the desired explosion arrives eventually.
The Wire (UK)
Irabagon is probably best known for his work with Mostly Other People Do the Killing, where stylistic versatility is central. On "Axis" he and his colleagues stick largely to free jazz/fire music territory but, within that, range through many moods and approaches. Berlin opens with beautiful, delicate, melancholic melody, which begins to darken after four minutes, becoming anxious as Irabagon's tone grows more troubled. Fukuoka climaxes with a turbulent, dense, complicated passage typifying the group's frequent transformation into a fearsome Cerberus, triple-headed but with one common aim. In between comes exemplary group music, yet showcasing the individual talents of each musician. 4/5.
Jazz Journal (UK)
Axis finds Irabagon pushing toward a new polarity with a pair of vaunted underground figures from Bergen, Norway—guitarist John Hegre, a sound artists known best for the noise music he created in Jazzkammer, and drummer Nils Are Dronen, a searcher who works in The Last Hurrah!!, the country-flavored rock band led by HP Gundersen, who introduced the saxophonist to his collaborators here. The two sidelong improvisations were recorded in two sessions spanning a year-and-a-half, and the fiery rapport shared by the trio is obvious. "Berlin," the first of the excursions, opens with a meditative chill, a quiet, slow-moving series of bluesy whispers. But then Hegre's delicate, drifting arpeggios explode into abrasive shards of noise and Dronen's sparse cymbal play crashes into a rumbling mayhem. Ultimately, though, it's Irabagon that does the heavy lifting, pushing his alto through a coruscating flow of split tones and parched screams. "Fukuoka" jumps right into the maelstrom, although it does hold back the pure energy at first, opting for a wonderful series of stabs, sways and spasms. Eventually, the trio delivers an unhinged conflagration, with each player stoking the flames.
New York-based saxophonist John Irabagon appeared on one of last year's finest albums, Mary Halvorson's Away With You and is a member of the Mostly Other People Do The Killing, whose mischievous note-for-note cover of Kind Of Blue sent up the jazz-as-classical-music brigade by taking their transcription-based approach to its logical conclusion. Axis finds him in fully-improvised mode, cutting it up with guitarist John Herge and drummer Nils Are Drønen of Danish noise outfits Der Brief, Public Enema and Jazzkamer. Next to his noisy Norwegian brethren, Irabagon is almost the straight guy, his supremely focussed virtuosity contrasting with their wilder approach. As a trio, they make the most of that dynamic, with Irabagon pulling things together when necessary, before throwing it all off the cliff. On the Berlin cut, Herge makes like a shoegaze Sonny Sharrock, blurring his furious fretboard scrub into a reverb-heavy thrum. As the piece reaches its conclusion, ringing steel drum tones break through the clouds, illuminating the earth. 'Fukuoka' starts on the down-low, with Iragabon's key taps and tongue slaps given minimal shading by Herge and Drønen. The saxophonist slurs and rasps as if he's slightly hungover. After some scratching around he rallies some energy, spitting out mouthfuls of vinegar as Herge stacks up loops of crabby prog riffage over Drønen's fizzing cymbals. The saxophonist attempts to impose order with a strident Coltrane-like theme, before leaping back into the fray with altissimo twitters and rowdy hyucks. Bags of fun.
The Quietus (UK)
The exceptional 2017 platter called ”Axis” from Norwegian-American trio Irabagon, Hegre and Drønen arrived precisely when my receptors were most tuned to ingest it, and man, what a melting slab of intoxicating free wailing it is. I've given it the once-over many times now, and it reveals more with each playing. We're talking two tracks, one recorded in Berlin 2013 and the other in Fukuoka, Japan early 2015. "Berlin" is a master burner that starts out quite slow, mournful and seemingly wholly structured, with true abrasiveness only starting to creep in around the sixth minute. Then, in the eighth minute a switch is flat-out flipped, and it all goes haywire. It's free, squirting saxophone and rattling, scattered drum, all talk underpinned by Hegre's soaring guitar, which sometimes functions as a rumbling near-bass, but more often as a building, tension-coiling backdrop that sounds less like guitar & much more like shimmering electronics. It's a pretty dizzying piece, clocking in just under 18 minutes in full. ”Fukuoka” is truly free throughout, but it admittedly takes a while to lift off. It's cut through with loads of squeaks and plucks and sputtering, maintaining a moderate, minimal tone throughout with Irabagon's sax bursting out painfully in spots. Ultimately, the thing transitions to an absolutely frantic final few minutes, with Drønen a total wild man on percussion, and the whole thing reeking of madness and amphetamines. "Axis" is a super-flexible and boiling bit of free jazz skronkery that once again points to Norway as one of our planet's improvisational ground zeroes.
Dynamite Hemorrhage (US)
Jon Irabagon is a technically ferocious NYC-based sax master of jazz vernaculars, asserting himself coherently in trio with a Norwegian noise-improv guitar-drums duo.
Det første strekket på Axis lover ualminnelig godt. Musikken har nesten de samme kvalitetene Ornette Coleman demonstrerte på duoalbumet Soapsuds, Soapsuds som kom i 1977. Gitarlyden til John Hegre er tørr, og det låter sparsommelig, omtrent slik bassen til Charlie Haden gjør på Ornettes plate. Nils Are Drønens trommer underbygger fredsommeligheten. Det er ingen lystighet å spore, og slik fortsetter det. New York-saksofonisten Jon Irabagon skal ha truffet de to norske støyvennene i Bergen. Som musikalsk møte betraktet, er denne triokonstellasjonen interessant. Irabagon har i likhet med de to andre framvist lederskap på de scenene han har opptrådt. Saksofonisten er først og fremst kjent gjennom sitt medlemskap i Mostly Other People Do The Killing, men kjennetegnes av måter han tilpasser seg jazzens foranderlighet. Det er en ballade, en blues eller et blått svermeri vi møter i den nevnte åpningssekvensen på Axis. Det utvikler seg i nakenhet og tilføres en kledelig dose råskap.
Ornette für Kinder? Das ist tatsächlich eines der Projekte von HEGRE & DRØNEN (zusammen mit Stein Urheim und Kjetil Møster). Die beiden, der Noise-Gitarrist John Hegre und der Trommler Nils Are Drønen, die machen seit 1996 als Public Enema Free Form Music und Drønen taucht öfters auch in Hegres Basisstation Jazkamer auf. Allerdings ist das ja 'Jaz(z)', bei dem man eher den Kammerjäger notruft. Drønen zog bei The Last Hurrah!! Live dann die Strippen zum unvermuteten Dritten bei Axis (RCD2190), dem unorthodoxen Saxophonkollossus JON IRABAGON. Der hat neben seinen Hauptsachen mit Mostly Other People Do The Killing, mit Barry Altschul, Dave Douglas und Mary Halvorson offenbar immer noch Zeit und Abenteuerlust genug für seltsame Freundschaften speziell in Bergen, zu Sergeant Petter, Professor Tip Top, Anja Kløve oder eben einem Troublemaker wie Hegre. Wobei ich dessen Faible für Freistil-Jazz ebenso unterschätzt habe wie das von Drønen. 'Berlin' & 'Fukuoka' sind zwei furiose Sets, die keine Wünsche offen lassen hinsichtlich wildem Trommelgrollen, Hagelschlag und Beckendreschen und feuermusikalischer Sax-Exzesse. Wobei sich Irabagon auch von einem verstimmten oder verstopfen Horn nicht bremsen lässt. Er ploppt sich da einfach durch, beißt der Schlange den Kopf ab, setzt mit lauthalsem Kikeriki den Hahn aufs Dach. Hegre spielt dazu den gitarristischen Widerborst, seine Finger ein pluckernder Ventilator, seine Töne abrupt oder krumm wie gezogene Nägel und geeignet, einen Hasslanometer in eine Sinnkrise zu stürzen. Beim grüblerischen 'Fukuoka' ist er jedoch in der 13 Min. voll da, um beim plötzlich losbrechenden, siedendheiß aufzischenden Groove in seinem hufeschwingenden, irre kirrenden Karacho und einem um die Ohren crashenden Blitzen mitzugrooven und mitzublitzten als sei das alles genau so auf seinem Mist gewachsen.
Bad Alchemy (DE)