Paul Shapiro, “Shofarot Verses” (Tzadik) and Jon Irabagon with Mark Helias and Barry Altschul, “It Takes All Kinds” (Irabbagast/jazzwerkstatt). Here are two of the hippest alto saxophonists to be featured in the Hunt Real Estate Art of Jazz series at the Albright-Knox Gallery which now seems to be in quiescence for a while. Paul Shapiro continues to bring klezmer and all kinds of traditional Jewish music into places where no one suspected it was willing to go a couple of decades ago. “There was no rehearsal and most versions on this album were first takes,” Shapiro says of the wittily titled “Shofarot Verses” (a reference to Salman Rushdie’s once-scandalous novel substituting the word for music intended to be played on the shofar, the ram’s horn played during the high holidays). What’s most amazing about “Shofarot Verses” is the pairing of Shapiro with guitarist Marc Ribot, one of the more remarkable figures in current jazz and a man capable, musically, of just about anything. It begins with Shapiro’s solo version of the melody from the Yom Kippur Service and proceeds through all sorts of klezmer fusion and lord knows what else featuring great players doing variations on music with all manner of Jewish references. Jon Irabagon is the extraordinary alto saxophonist featured with the group Mostly Other People Do the Killing whom German annotater Ulrich Steinmetzger describes with dangerous wit as “bebop terrorists.” “It Takes All Kinds” is a superb disc of avant-garde jazz, by no means appropriate for listeners without a well-developed sense of adventure and a lot of patience. There’s gripping, even thrilling music from this pianoless trio whose drummer, Barry Altschul, was once crucial to the music of Anthony Braxton and the Braxton/Chick Corea group Circle. The formidable Mark Helias is their bassist. Some of it, admittedly, is more than a little boring. Nevertheless, the best of it is some of the more remarkable music of its kind to come out in a while. ΩΩΩ½ for Shapiro, ΩΩΩ for Irabagon. (Jeff Simon)
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Listening Post: Two alto saxophone stars from the Albright-Knox Art of Jazz series
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