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Irabagon, Jon / John Hegre / Nils Are Dronen: Axis [VINYL] (Rune Grammofon)

Saxophonist Jon Irabagon continues his trajectory in creative new jazz with the release of this trio album with drummer Nils Are Dronen and guitarist John Hegre, recorded live in Berlin at N.K., and in Fukuoka, Japan at New Combo, each track an extended improvisation balancing beautiful tonal work with informed and aggressive interaction.

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product information:


Label: Rune Grammofon
Catalog ID: RLP 3190LP
Squidco Product Code: 23414

Format: LP + CD
Condition: New
Released: 2017
Country: Norway
Packaging: LP with CD
Recorded At. N. K. Berlin, Germany, on June 11th, 2013, and at New Combo, Fukuoka, Japan, on January 14th, 2015.


Jon Irabagon-saxophone

Nils Are Dronen-drums

John Hegre-guitar

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Artist Biographies:

"The winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition, Irabagon has since topped both the Rising Star Alto Saxophone and the Rising Star Tenor Saxophone categories in the DownBeat Magazine Critics' Poll and been named one of Time Out New York's 25 New York City Jazz Icons. Jon was also named 2012 Musician of the Year in The New York City Jazz Record and is an integral member of such high-profile ensembles as the Mary Halvorson Quintet, the Dave Douglas Quintet and Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor, as well as an established bandleader in his own right.

For Perpetual Motion, a project of Moondog arrangements, Jon (along with French saxophonist/clarinetist/composer Sylvain Rifflet) has been awarded a French-American Cultural Exchange grant from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, with generous funding from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Florence Gould Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Institut Français, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, and Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs de Musique ("SACEM"). In addition, Jon has received a 2012 Mabuhay Award by the National Association of Filipino-Americans and a 2014 Philippine Presidential Award.

Jon's own record label, Irabbagast Records, has currently released five of his efforts, including I Don't Hear Nothin' but the Blues Volume 2: Appalachian Haze (with Mike Pride and Mick Barr), Outright! Unhinged (with Ralph Alessi, Jacob Sacks, John Hebert and Tom Rainey) and It Takes All Kinds (featuring Mark Helias and Barry Altschul), and most recently, the dual release of Behind the Sky (featuring Tom Harrell, Luis Perdomo, Yasushi Nakamura and Rudy Royston) as well as Jon's first solo saxophone recording, Inaction is an Action."

-Jon Irabagon Website (

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"John Hegre (born 1 February 1967 in Bergen, Norway) is a Norwegian guitarist, songwriter and sound engineer. He has collaborated in bands like Der Brief and Public Enema, together with drummer Nils Are Drønen since 1995.

Hegre is one of the cornerstones of Norwegian noise music. He completed the sound engineer education at Norwegian lydskole in Oslo (1991), and subsisted for several years as a sound engineer until he decided to make his own music to his main focus at the end of the 1990's.

Hegre startet Jazzkammer together with Lasse Marhaug in 1998, and Kaptein Kaliber with David Aasheim in 1999. He is also involved in Golden Serenades with Jørgen Træen, Black Packers with Jean-Philippe Gross, Rehab with Bjørnar Habbestad, Tree People with Morten J. Olsen and Ignaz Schick, NOXAGT with Kjetil Brandsdal and Jan Christian L. Kyvik, Bergen Impro Storband, Skurkeklubben with David Aasheim, Jørgen Træen and Bjørn Torske, Tralten Eller Utpult with Thore Warland and Kristoffer Riis."

-Wikipedia (

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track listing:


1 Berlin 17:43


1 Fukuoka 18:56
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Filipino-American Jon Irabagon has topped both the Rising Star Alto Saxophone and the Rising Star Tenor Saxophone categories in Down Beat's critics polls and been named one of Time Out New York's 25 New York City Jazz Icons. A founding member of Mostly Other People Do The Killing, he is also an integral member of the Mary Halvorson Quintet, Dave Douglas Quintet, and Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor. John Hegre is a musician, songwriter, sound engineer, and a pioneer of the Norwegian noise music scene. He founded Jazzkammer with Lasse Marhaug in 1998, releasing their debut album Timex (RCD 2014CD) on Rune Grammofon the year after. He has been involved with close to 50 releases on various labels. Nils Are Dronen has been a player on the fertile music scene in Bergen since teaming up with Hegre 20 years ago."-Rune Grammofon

"Born in 1937 the Filipino-American saxophonist Jon Irabagon has been a fairly regular presence on the Jazzmann web pages, largely due to his involvement with the band Mostly Other People Do The Killing, led by bassist and composer Moppa Elliott. He has also been a member of MOPDTK associates Big Five Chord led by guitarist Jon Lundbom.

A serial collaborator the busy Irabagon works with musicians from both sides of the Atlantic and his other credits include membership of bands led by guitarist Mary Halvorson, trumpeter Dave Douglas and drummers Barry Altschul and Nathaniel Smith. He was recently sighted touring the UK as a member of Scottish drummer and composer Andrew Bain's all star international Embodied Hope Quartet.

Alongside all of this Irabagon conducts a solo career, one that is just as diverse and interesting as his work with other people. A formidable technician he plays all the main members of the saxophone family with equal brilliance and has even announced his ambition to record a solo album on each of the major horns. He's mainly associated with tenor and alto so I don't think he's got round to soprano and baritone just yet.

Axis finds Irabagon collaborating with the Norwegian musicians John Hegre (guitar) and Nils Are Dronen (drums). The pair have worked on projects together since 1995 as well as conducting solo careers and working with other musicians.

Hegre, aged 49, is also a songwriter and sound engineer and besides his jazz credentials is also a pioneer on the Norwegian noise music scene. He co-leads the band Jazkamer together with sound artist/vocalist Lasse Marhaug and has also worked with the bands The Golden Serenades and Kaptein Kaliber. Others with whom he has collaborated include experimental vocalist Maja Ratkje and the versatile Helge Sten aka Deathprod, musician, sound artist, producer and member of Supersilent. In all Hegre has appeared on a total nearly fifty recordings.

Like Hegre Dronen is based in Bergen and is also a member of Jazkamer. The two musicians are also members of the band The Last Hurrah! founded by guitarist and producer HP Gundersen. It was Gundersen who first met Irabagon in New York and subsequently introduced him to Hegre and Dronen when the American visited Bergen. Establishing a strong musical friendship with his Norwegian cohorts Irabagon guested on the Last Hurrah! album "The Beauty Of Fake".

Irabagon's bond with Hegre and Dronen subsequently led to this improvised trio recording recorded at two different sessions in two different locations in 2013 and 2015. The album consists of two lengthy improvised pieces ,which in the old days would have represented the two sides of a vinyl LP. And in 2017 that's exactly what they have become again with Rune Grammofon also offering a vinyl version of this CD.

The first piece was recorded at N.K. Studios in Berlin on 11th June 2013. Simply titled "Berlin" it commences in unexpectedly ruminative fashion, particularly in view of the 'noise' credentials of the two Norwegians. Irabagon blows long, mournful tenor sax melody lines above Hegre's shadowy guitar and Dronen's furtive brushwork. The drummer's role here is very much that of colourist, more Paul Motian than Paal Nilssen-Love. The music evolves slowly and organically, almost elegantly at first, but nevertheless begins to acquire a harder edge as it develops. Irabagon's tone becomes harsher as he probes more deeply and introduces elements of harmolodics, Hegre widens his range of guitar effects and Dronen's cymbal work becomes more vigorous. It's only at around ten minutes in that the trio really begin to force the pace as Irabagon's sax honks, squawks and squeals, his full on assault bolstered by the kinetic roiling of Dronen's drums and the furious low end thrum of Hegre's guitar. However even at his most belligerent Irabagon never entirely abandons his sense of melody, and no matter how loudly the trio rage the music never quite descends into cacophony. Eventually the fury reaches a peak and the music resolves itself with a slightly less fractious dialogue between Irabagon and Dronen, something that they seem to pick up on again some two years later at the start of the second piece.

On 14th January 2015 the trio found themselves in the studio again at New Combo in Fukoka, Japan. The piece "Fukoka" begins with the pecks and slurs of Irabagon's sax, accompanied by the sounds of key pads and allied to low key commentary from Dronen and Hegre. A more edgy three way dialogue develops featuring Irabagon's woozy, sometimes overblown sax, Hegre's edgy, scratchy guitar and the busy shuffle of Dronen's brushes. Hegre adopts a more strident, metallic guitar sound as he engages in an unsettling dialogue with Irabagon, the saxophonist periodically effecting a Coltrane like rasp. Then it's back to a more hesitant three way exchange before the mood again becomes edgy and fractious with Hegre's increasingly urgent guitar scratches and glissandos answered by Irabagon's correspondingly bellicose saxophone. Eventually the tension is released via a lengthy and incendiary final section that has Irabagon and Hegre clashing head on, both totally 'going for it' in a shredding explosion of sound with sax and guitar both screaming fit for bust accompanied by the clatter of drums and the sizzle of cymbals.

"Fukoka" is more obviously 'improvised' than its more measured "Berlin" counterpart and makes greater use of extended sax and guitar techniques but both pieces have much to offer the adventurous listener. Irabagon's astonishing technique is given free rein and inevitably impresses, as always. Nevertheless he's given excellent support by his two Norwegian colleagues and one suspects that this trio would represent a tantalising and highly exciting live prospect.

Axis is far from an easy listen and isn't an album for the faint hearted but for all that it's still more accessible than many free improv records."-Ian Mann, The Jazz Man

Also available on CD.
Get additional information at The Jazz Mann
Related Categories of Interest:

Vinyl Recordings
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Trio Recordings
NY Downtown & Jazz/Improv

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