Selected press

“Making the trek to the Newport Jazz Festival worthwhile was Mary Halvorson’s quintet, especially its saxophonist, Jon Irabagon, whose solos embodied both stalwart technique and a deep understanding of avant-garde vocabulary.”  –Evan Haga, JazzTimes Newport Jazz Festival review

“Saxophonist Jon Irabagon never fails to bring the sound of surprise on his albums, no matter what the format.” –Tim Niland, Jazz and Blues Blog

“Irabagonʼs first set ballad was an exquisite wrap, his duets with Kenny Wheeler sensuously voiced and his free-jazz fire undimmed.” –Mike Hobart, Financial Times

“Saxophonist Jon Irabagon’s playing is a treat. His sax work is restrained and searching at times and scorching and scathing at others throughout this focused program. 5 stars.” – Paul Acquaro, Free Jazz Blog

“Jon Irabagon has become one of the strongest, most flexible, and daring saxophonists at work today.”– Peter Margasak

“His most sublime playing in 2012 may have been on the impossibly beautiful quintet album by Dave Douglas, Be Still. There, Irabagon is playing with a graceful elasticity that is unfailingly melodic without ever seeming to be simple or clichéd.”  –Will Layman, PopMatters

“The great thing about Jon is that when he encounters a new or unfamiliar situation he doesn’t retreat,” says trumpeter Douglas. “He plays a lot of different ways, searching for the tone that best suits that moment. And because he has such a broad vocabulary, he is able to come back to it with a new solution and a new feeling every time. Jon’s records may seem like they skitter crazily among styles and approaches. It seemed like that to me too. That’s why I hired him.”  –Dave Douglas

“His extraordinary eclecticism is meaningful only because of his exemplary execution. His saxophone sound is always clarion and clean, and his ideas are hard and clear and fresh within their respective genres.” –Thomas Conrad, Jazztimes

“There’s a lot of willful unruliness in Jon Irabagon’s music, and more than a little cheek. A tenor and alto saxophonist of imposing and almost inexhaustible facility, Mr. Irabagon cuts a cavalier figure on the left-of-center New York jazz grid, often raising a cheerful ruckus as he stealthily hits his mark. He’s a musician of intense concentration who wants nothing more than to indulge a spirit of play, emphatic and unreserved.” –Nate Chinen, New York Times

“Jon is one of New York Cityʼs most deadly hornmen.” –Hank Shteamer, Time Out New York

“The alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon has a smart tone, a shrewd technique and a catholic grasp of the jazz tradition.” –Nate Chinen, The New York Times

“Irabagonʼs statement is genuinely original. Itʼs worth noting that Irabagon is developing into one of those players who, despite having an essentially mainstream approach to jazz, has a vocabulary so singular and original that he can be identified almost immediately, hard to mistake for, say, Chris Potter. Amen.” –Will Layman, PopMatters

“Saxophonist Jon Irabagon is gifted with a unique encyclopedic knowledge of jazz saxophone masters.” –Eyal Hareuveni, All About Jazz

“Jon Irabagon impresses with his authoritative, bold sound that sometimes recalls Coleman Hawkins as much as anyone. But Irabagon is a sensitive player for the 21st century, with winding, confident lines that snake in and out of conventional harmonies and a deep understanding of melody. He is just as effective on the understated compositions on album.” –Steven Loewy, All Music Guide

“Jon Irabagon embraces every aspect of the tradition, from featherweight balladry to coruscating skronk. A sonic extremist, his capacity for transposing dissonant multiphonics and undulating overtones into tuneful phrases is demonstrated on “Sky Circles” and the vociferous “Monkey Catcher.” His keening cries yield strangely appealing harmonies.” –Troy Collins, All About Jazz

“Jon is unpredictable in the best possible ways, often very deviously. Here, he alternates between straightforward, buoyant melody and frequent cloudbursts of bop.” — Lucid Culture Blog

“Irabagon has a beautiful tone at any tempo.” –Buffalo News

“Throughout the two sets, Irabagon was the catalyst for the best playing from the group and amply proved why a vocabulary that is all-encompassing is important. His control of tone and timbre obviously comes from working with extended techniques in Mostly Other People Do the Killing, while his intervallic language and keen sense of motivic development gave his solos a highly cohesive logic. The combination of all these elements was riveting.” –David Ryshpan, Settled in Shipping Blog

“Irabagon, in the semi-finals, as well as the finals, consistently used his skillful dexterity at the service of rich, imaginative improvisational explorations. His version of “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” was stunning, taking the song to the outer limits of re-imagination, valuing the interaction between sounds and silences, while still remaining firmly in touch with the classic melody. Like the other finalists, Irabagon also did a number with singer Dee Dee Bridgewater — “Just Friends,” in their case. And here another, equally intriguing side of Irabagonʼs musicality emerged via the spontaneous, often witty, always swinging exchanges with the entertaining Bridgewater.” –Don Heckman

“Furthermore, Jon Irabagon is revealed as the most impressive soloist, something that is becoming common in his career. His interventions in “Truncheon”, “Phoenetics” and “Baluba, Baluba” are the highlights of the album.” –Yahve de la Cavada

“It was nothing short of exhilarating to watch Irabagon – whose new album Foxy is due out this month – make short work of an endless series of razorwire glissandos. And maybe predictably, it was one of his solos, a mealymouthed, weepily retarded, off-key stumble during their opening number, that was the funniest moment in a night full of many.” –Jim Macnie, Lucid Culture Blog

“Simple without being simplistic; straightforward without being strictly straight-ahead; unpretentious, yet artistically thoughtful; humble, yet full of youthful confidence, saxophonist Jon Irabagon, winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk Competition, showcased a compelling mix of humor, technique, and engaging music during his October 30 concert at the Kennedy Center’s KC Jazz Club.” –Franz Matzner

“The performance was trancelike, glowing with intellect.” –Nate Chinen, The New York Times

“One could easily imagine Irabagon on a bill with Albert Ayler and John Coltrane, had he been born a generation earlier.” –David Luhrssen

“Irabagon is a masterful stylistic chameleon whose turbulent chromatic screed on “Crescent White Singe” invokes Braxton as readily as the somber refrains of “Crack In Sky” conjures the lyricism of Hodges. Together Finlayson and Irabagon make a dexterous and tempestuous front-line, capable of navigating contrapuntal charts with graceful agility and fueling collective passages with unruly verve.” –Troy Collins, All About Jazz

“The partnership between extraordinary young saxist Jon Irabagon and endlessly resourceful drum veteran Barry Altschul has produced some of the most galvanizing jazz of the past few years—a borderless style that embraces the mainstream and the avant-garde in a single loving bear hug.” –Hank Shteamer, Time Out New York

“Irabagonʼs beautiful solo on the Appalachian tune ʻHigh On a Mountainʼ is the epitome of the style that has been dubbed ʻcountrypolitan.ʼ” –Alyn Shipton, Jazzwise Magazine

“Thereʼs a sincerity to this music thatʼs refreshing.” –The Wire

“Irabagonʼs sax is a joyride.” –George W. Harris

“Among a covey of fine young soloists, the most outstanding work came from alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon.” –Don Heckman, LA Times

Praise for…

Outright! Unhinged

“Unhinged is Irabagon’s most complete statement to date, as bandleader, composer, arranger, player and instigator of organized mayhem.  Unhinged is a work of serious creativity and wild revelry.” –Thomas Conrad, Jazztimes

“But it seems pretty clear that there is a focus to this music, and that despite a number of different tacks, the music does have an overarching vision, narrative, and conviction that ensure Unhinged remains far from being a pastiche or a grab-bag.”–Clifford Allen

“Those who are so direly trying to pinpoint the future of 21st century jazz should keep an eye on the multifaceted Irabagon, who shifts between genres with ease.”  –Hilary Brown, Downbeat Magazine

Praise for…

I Dont’ Hear Nothin’ but the Blues Volume 2:  Appalachian Haze

“Appalachian Haze” unfolds as a single spontaneous gesture, spasmodic in its immediate effect but possessed of a greater sense of order, like a Jackson Pollock canvas. –Nate Chinen, New York Times

“Irabagon’s I Don’t Hear Nothin’ But the Blues, Volume 2: Appalachian Haze is a true lease-breaker. In its 48 minutes of unrelieved, outrageous uproar, the tenor player makes Albert Ayler sound like Scott Hamilton.” –Thomas Conrad, Jazztimes

“Undoubtedly, Volume 2: Appalachian Haze is an in-your-face improv colossus and to call it epic — it’s one continuous, bloodthirsty track clocking in at an improbable 48 minutes — would be an understatement. While the hip masses are compiling their ridiculous best of 2012 lists in early December, here now comes along Irabagon, Pride and Barr bringing arguably the ultimate melt of fire-breathing skronk-fest brawling, six-string finger-fucking virtuosity, ubiquitous percussive hooks and jabs and gale-force horn swagger that may only be rivaled by another recent massive face-rip record Barr appears on, BARR SHEA DAHL (ugEXPLODE).”  –Brad Cohan, Village Voice



“This is a thrilling album. It made the hairs stand up on my neck, with accompanying shivers. It’s exhausting to hear but it’s also exhilarating. Experiencing it deserves an accompanying T-shirt!” –Geoff Chapman

“One of the most intense, relentless sax records ever.” –Tom Hull

“The music is so energetic it could fuel a small city for a month. The results are exhilarating and exhausting.” –Michael Roberts, Jazziz Magazine

“With inexhaustible stamina and unbridled enthusiasm, he unleashes a bellowing stream of lyrical cadences in vacillating time signatures that alternate with asymmetrical refrains, altissimo accents and multiphonic blasts. His technical prowess and singular creativity facilitates the incorporation of divergent approaches into naturalistic extrapolations, seamlessly uniting formalism with abstraction. A tour de force of ardent virtuosity and cogent interplay, this marathon blowing session is a potent reminder of the joyous spontaneity of jazz in all its stylistic permutations, and a bold statement from a young artist on the rise.” –Troy Collins, All About Jazz “Foxy is a great big belly-laugh of an album; a stunning physical feat; a constantly shifting musical achievement; an adventure; and a raw and visceral performance. Foxy is a powerhouse recording of imagination and humor from a masterful trio.” –Bruce Lindsay

“It weds stamina with smarts and wound up being some of the most entertaining art Iʼve been smacked around by all summer.”– Jim Macnie

“The content is some of the most fabulous high energy free boppish sax trios that you will hear in a long time.” –Stef, Free Jazz Blog

“It’s an exuberant record. Irabagon knows his stuff and his cheerful toying of the “rules” is ultimately terrific.” –Jordan Richardson

“They create some of the most exciting and provocative music of the year.” –Tim Niland, Jazz and Blues Blog

“Listening to Irabagon is like watching Olympic luge in that you just canʼt believe someone can go so fast so unprotected and not get killed.” –Bill Shoemaker

“Here we find the mighty sax man doing an energetic job throughout where the music sounds like 80 minutes of Lou Reed bringing his Metal Machine Music to meet with Sonny Rollins under the bridge where they aren’t talking about all those Jim Jims in this town.” –Chris Specter


The Observer 

“The Observer stands as one of the most cohesive, consistent and delightful discs of the year.” –Britt Robson, JazzTimes Magazine

“For his mainstream debut, Irabagon emerges as a consummately lyrical musician with a subtly individualist take on the tradition.” –Stuart Broomer

“Listening to Irabagon repeatedly put his partners through a playful but demanding set of paces brings to mind Eric Kloss and his youthful meeting with Milesʼ crew of Corea, Holland and DeJohnette. This date conveys a comparable excitement as the elders bear proud witness to a delegate of the younger generation blowing the hell out of his horns and doing so in a manner cognizant of the pantheon that precedes him. Most importantly, it blows apart any attempts to place Irabagon in an idiomatic box and discloses the breadth of talent at his disposal.” –Derek Taylor, Master Of a Small House Blog

“It is a confident major label debut in every respect. His writing shows range and originality.” –100 Greatest Jazz Albums Blog

“Kenny Barron is the epitome of grace here, whether comping or taking off out front, while Irabagon proves fleet of finger and thought as his sweet-toned alto floats and pirouettes above the sleekly driving rhythm section. He swings with insouciant poise.” –John Sharpe, All About Jazz

“ A dynamic soloist, Irabagonʼs tortuous cadences are reminiscent of Charlie Parkerʼs scorching dexterity, the precision of Wayne Shorter, and the emotional balance of Cannonball Adderley.” –Musica que Cuelga Blog

“For Gigi Grice’s “The Infant’s Song,” Irabagon’s fluttering frolic in the high register of the alto is straight-up gorgeous. The Observer dispels any doubt about his ability to lead a crack unit with poise while leaving his own, multifaceted style left intact.” — Something Else Reviews

“All told, The Observer is a persuasively intrepid major label debut for a writer and artist who is quickly shifting from emerging sensation to distinctive personality and has the potential to become an important new jazz figure.” –Doug Simpson

“Irabagonʼs tone is a thing of beauty—approaching the cool remove of Paul Desmondʼs “dry martini” sound but not above signs of sweat or passion.  Overall, itʼs hip, refined mainstream jazz, original but accessible.” –David Gassmann, Pop Matters


I Donʼt Hear Nothinʼ but the Blues 

“Itʼs doggedly extreme, borderline obnoxious and completely riveting. The result is an ultrararity in experimental music: a lengthy improv excursion thatʼs as focused and indelible as a great pop song. 5 stars.” –Hank Shteamer, Time Out New York

“This is a continuous conversation between two amped improvisers with a mischievous sensibility and an encyclopedic knowledge of music history. Most contemporary saxophone and drum duets usually tend toward either short thematic improvisations or expansive free burnouts. Irabagon and Pride combine the two concepts, venturing into uncharted territory with a bracing new vision. I Don’t Hear Nothin’ But The Blues is history in the making.” –Troy Collins, All About Jazz

“While the music certainly draws much of its power from the deep blues, there is also a vein of DIY punk running through it.” –Jazz and Blues Blog

“The sax/drum duo is by now a well-trod road. Irabagon and Pride find their own way of traversing it.” –Kurt Gottschalk, All About Jazz



“One of the most stunning debuts of recent times.” –Vincenzo Roggero, All About Jazz Italy

“Alto saxophonist Jon Irabagonʼs debut is a delight, simple as that.” –Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes

“These are multi-faceted pieces, balanced by segments that emphasize collective playing, variations in volume and tone and shifting responses. The contributions of a mixed choir on “That Was Then” and a traditional ensemble called the Original Outright Jass Band on “Outright! Theme” also show Jon Irabagon and his mates can excel in any jazz genre.” –Nashville City Paper

“An ear opening journey through the past and future of jazz, Outright! reveals Irabagon as a viable session leader.” –Troy Collins, All About Jazz

“One of the craziest versions of ʻGroovin’ Highʼ ever recorded.” –Scott Yanow, All Music Guide