Last month on the Reader
’s blog I wrote about the sudden ubiquity around Chicago of superb trumpeter Russ Johnson
. Long one of the best and most overlooked postbop practitioners in New York, where he worked as a sideman with the likes of Jenny Scheinman, Michael Bates, and Lee Konitz, he moved to Milwaukee last year to teach, and Chicagoans have benefited from his proximity. Tonight he’s leading a quartet with two locals, drummer Tim Daisy and bassist Anton Hatwich, both of whom he’s played with before. Most of the tunes will come from Johnson’s book of sturdy, knotty originals, but the group’s guest saxophonist, Jon Irabagon
, will also contribute a few. A Chicago native, Irabagon has lately become a key presence in New York: he plays in Mostly Other People Do the Killing and the new Dave Douglas Quintet as well as in several fascinating projects of his own, two of which have just released excellent albums on his new label, Irabbagast. On Unhinged
, the second album by his raucous quintet Outright!
, the lineup is entirely different (the band now includes trumpeter Ralph Alessi, keyboardist Jacob Sacks, bassist John Hebert, and drummer Tom Rainey), but the music is just as sprawling, energetic, and fun, colliding free jazz, hard bop, and even some full-bodied fusion; for an epic version of Paul Desmond’s “Silent Smile,” the quintet becomes an organ-fueled 28-member orchestra that features theremin, banjo, berimbau, and wordless singing. For I Don’t Hear Nothin’ but the Blues Volume 2: Appalachian Haze
, Irabagon’s second collaboration with drummer Mike Pride, they’re joined by manic electric guitarist Mick Barr
, whose brutal prog band Orthrelm shares their interest in working and reworking one motif after another—he fits right in. —Peter Margasak