Sylvain Rifflet/Jon Irabagon/Sébastien Boisseau/Jim Black

Rebellion(s)
BMC CD 296

A principled program with which to say "good riddance" to the Trump Era, Rebellion(s) melds profound improvisations with spoken word segments expressing social concerns. Organized by French tenor saxophonist who composed most of the music, the Franco-American quartet includes Rifflet who has played with Barry Altschul among many others; Gallic bassist Sébastien Boisseau who has partnered Sylvaine Hélary plus Americans, drummer Jim Black, known for his stint with Tim Berne and sopranino saxophonist Jon Irabagon who has been an innovative musical presence over the past decade.

The most outstanding tracks are “Jean Moulin” and “Paul Robeson”, which operate as reverse onomatopoeia, that complement the cadences and emotion of speeches given by French Gaullist politician André Malraux heard on the first tune and the left-wing American singer/actor on the second. Sometimes harmonized, the saxophonists’ squeezed split tone and reed smears decorate and extend “Jean Moulin” mirroring every modulation and warble in the voice. On “Paul Robeson”, Irabagon’s response to the recitation is a smooth and supple solo that when joined by Rifflet’s blowing becomes tougher and more concentrated as Robeson’s words become more heated.

Other interpretations may not be as powerful, although when backing the voice of a teenaged anti-NRA, school shooting survivor, on “The Adults in the Room” the reed vibrations and bites plus stentorian double bass pulse echo with the same intensity as the speech. With triple tonguing and sharpened scoops the saxophonists offer sophisticated comments on other instrumental sequences and entire tunes. Black’s tick-tock drumming provides the proper relaxed and sometimes martial backing throughout, while stepping forward on the final two tracks Boisseau’s spidery strokes or col legno prodding adds to the admirable performance.

Although recorded a full year before Trump was shuffled out of office Rebellion(s) provide a musical soundtrack to the many social problems brought to a boil during that unfortunate presidency. Hopefully in future this capital set will just be heard for its high quality music and not as a portend of further troubles yet to come.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Rebellion(s): 1. Jean Moulin 2. Factory Girl 3. Greta T. 4. The Adults in the Room 5. Olympe 6. Paul Robeson 7. America: Daybreak

Personnel: Rebellion(s): Jon Irabagon (mezzo-soprano and sopranino saxophones); Sylvain Rifflet (tenor saxophone); Sébastien Boisseau (bass) and Jim Black (drums)