CD review: Barry Altshul

3domThe 3Dom Factor
(TUM CD 032)

Hard Bop and free jazz drummer Barry Altschul celebrates becoming 70 with the release of his first recording, as a leader, since the 1986 outing That’s Nice. He first came to prominence playing with Paul Bley in the 1960s and has played with Anthony Braxton, Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Sam Rivers, amongst others. This time he’s joined by Jon Irabagon on tenor and Joe Fonda on bass. The 3Dom Factor is released on the Helsinki label Tum Records.

The title track starts the proceedings with a fiery statement of intent. Altschul’s restless and punchy whistle-laden percussion points the way for Irabagon’s flighty tenor to take off, with barely restrained minor combustions from Fonda’s bass. It’s free playing, but always disciplined, running off the leash occasionally, but never far away from the essence of the melody.

The second track, Martin’s Stew, continues in mysterious-sounding manner with bowed-bass, capering percussion, whistles and a concise tenor. Irina is an introspective number with a restrained, dreamy tenor and plenty of space allowing the bass to stretch out. The drumming on the groovy Papa´s Funkish Dance almost sounds like something that wasn’t created by human hand, it’s so spot-on, as Altschul rolls along to a probing, succinct bop tenor.

Barry Altschul

Barry Altschul

The Monk-inspired Be Out S’Cool initially features a restless tenor and stop-start drumming, building to a crescendo of strung-out sax and growling bass. The deconstructed calypso of Oops is based upon a rhythm heard by Altschul in Mali, influenced by a camel’s walk, and it includes some wonderfully detailed bass and tenor. Just a Simple Song is a gentle three-note ballad with the languid tenor hovering around the upper register. The driving, frisky and concise Carla Bley-penned bop tune Ictus (the only non-original here) was frequently performed live when Altschul was with the Paul Bley Trio and includes a memorable solo from Altschul. The awe-inspiring Natal Chart starts with the drummer using an array of handheld bells and whistles before it picks up speed and morphs into a demented Dixieland tune, apparently using tonal representations of the planets from Altschul’s own astrological chart! A Drummer’s Song closes the record with a powerful but nuanced drum solo.

The 3Dom Factor ratchets up the tempo, moving from subtle introspection to uninhibited fireworks, and this powerful trio sounds as if it’s in danger of spontaneous combustion if it continues at this level of inspired intensity. The CD is housed in a lavish package with a painting by Finnish artist Marianna Uutinen gracing the cover.

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