Russ Johnson & Jon Irabagon Recommended Soundboard Image

When: Sun., Dec. 27, 9 p.m. 2015

The holiday creates a notoriously fallow time for live music in these parts, but sometimes that results in a great low-pressure gig, like this one featuring the knockout quintet assembled by Milwaukee trumpeter Russ Johnson. Not only has Johnson immersed himself in the local Chicago scene, he’s maintained a diverse network of associates from his couple of decades spent in New York, as evidenced by his relationships with both saxophonist Jon Irabagon and pianist Matt Mitchell, two of the most in-demand and exciting figures in the current NYC scene. Irabagon continues to churn out great work, including two radically diverse albums on his own Irrabagast imprint. Behind the Sky is a tender quartet session—and a rich quintet when trumpeter Tom Harrell contributes—with music composed to reflect the grieving process after the death of a loved one. The fiercely experimental solo sopranino sax recording Inaction Is an Action delves deep into extreme sounds—like unexpectedly guttural, industrial growls or dentist-drill-like upper-register whistles—and presents them within subtle compositional structures. Irabagon’s from Morton Grove, so it’s not unusual to see him turn up this time of year, but it’s a real treat that Philadelphia native Mitchell will join tonight’s strong local rhythm section of bassist Matt Ulery and drummer Jon Deitemyer. Mitchell is a trusted member of bands led by Tim Berne, Darius Jones, Dave Douglas, and Rudresh Mahanthappa as well as a distinctive leader in his own right—check out this year’s rigorous Vista Accumulation (Pi). The group will play originals by both Johnson and Irabagon.

Peter Margasak

Price: $10 suggested donation

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