Interview with Jon Irabagon, March 2013

13 Mar

1- What was one of your most challenging but most rewarding experiences, musically/ artistically? Or perhaps you could mention some really fruitful collaborations you have had?

Each musical situation has its own gains and rewards; it’s always challenging to join a band when it has been going on for awhile, when you are filling in or replacing someone, or when the bandleader has played his or her tunes for a longer period of time. I don’t generally like to read music on the bandstand, so the preparation process includes memorizing the music and internalizing cues, tempo changes or open sections, and understanding the parameters of the particular band. The next level above that, however, is more goal driven or even philosophical– do I want to continue playing in the style that my predecessor played in? Do I want to play drastically different? Something in between? How can I add my own angle to the music but respect the original intentions? How does the bandleader feel about all these things, and how much does that factor into my in-the-moment decisions? These are all questions that I go through when I join a new band or situation, which affects how I prepare for the shows.

With that, I’ve grown a lot musically from playing with Dave Douglas recently, as well as a handful of really influential gigs for me with Kenny Wheeler, and also the last nine years with a band that I’ve been in called Mostly Other People do the Killing.

2- When you record an album, do you have a specific audience in mind, or do you record whatever you think you need to record at that particular time, and for artistic reasons mostly?

I think there are several valid ways to approach making albums, and I’ve recorded different albums for different reasons. For me, albums of my music have been most effective when I record music that is in a certain balance of being both prepared and conceptualized but not finished or polished off yet. I like the work-in-progress idea and I like documenting music or improvisations that have started to find their way and personality, but haven’t become a caricature of themselves.

As far as the audience, I feel that if I can make as honest and immediate music as i can at the time, there will be an audience who will be able to appreciate it in some way. I’m not interested in changing the kind of music I would make just to appeal to a wider audience.

3- Who is your audience? (and do you actually care?)

See above, but yes, I care about my audience. I like many different kinds of music, but all of them have some sense of fun and forward motion. I think that most audience members with open minds will be able to find something to latch onto.

4- When, in general, do you feel most comfortable? When you practice? When you perform? When you tour?

Performing with musicians and friends that you regularly play with and hang out with is one of the great luxuries of being part of a musical scene. Coming from the same philosophical backgrounds as your fellow musicians leads to some very challenging and relaxed (and fun) music making, as you can take more risks within the paradigms that are set up for the band. That sense of high wire improvisation is what it’s all about for me.

5- Whom, among musicians you have not played or recorded with yet, would you love to work with?

There are dozens of musicians in almost every genre that I would love to work with and share the stage with. Everyone has their own personality and their own set of inputs for where they are coming from, both musically and personally, and that’s what’s fun about playing with new people.

6- What do you think the role of the music journalist is, or the role of the journalist when it comes to writing about music and musicians?

The journalist to me acts as a conduit between the musician and the interested public. I like fact-based reporting as well as a learned and informed knowledge of the music and where the artist is coming from.  The more control a journalist has of both the language and the theoretical and fundamental aspects of music, the more they are able to convey an artist’s thoughts, if they are approaching journalism from that angle.


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