Barry Altschul ‎– The 3dom Factor

3domFactorThe 3dom trio has a pugilistic approach, and a punchy collective sound to match. Playing freely, certainly, but always tightly and responsively, its leader’s claims of “instinctual communication” seem well justified.

As Barry Altschul, who recently turned 70, says, it’s been more than a quarter century since he first recorded as a band leader. Most recently, he co-led the FAB trio with violinist Billy Bang and double bassist Joe Fonda. Their run lasted from 2003 until Bang’s death in 2011. Fonda is the bassist here too, the present trio being completed by tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon.

Although he’s a bandleader in his own right—Altschul was a “special guest” in the Jon Irabagon Trio that recorded “Foxy” in 2010—Irabagon is best known for his work with the fiercely irreverent postbop quartet Mostly Other People do the Killing. On the present recording, it seems he’s induced or inspired or infected the 3dom trio to play with likewise combustible energy.

They really kick this album’s door down with the title track. Irabagon plays with zestful inhibition over punchy double-bass detonations, briefly dropping out under the leader’s restlessly agitated drumming but coming back into play after a percussive exchange of hard knocks to beguile his partners with licks of concise, lucid melody. He then stokes them back to a rolling boil by adding a twist of gospelized anguish.

Irabagon’s tone is characteristically contrary: he can somehow sound simultaneously lush and abrasive, matching Archie Shepp for blending fire and yearning, but trading the ire of the latter’s definitive sound for iconoclastic exuberance. On uptempo kickers Altschul is all over his kit, all of the time, imparting to the music a torrential, unstoppable momentum while maintaining an explicit sense of swing. Connecting this swarm of circling percussives to the saxophone’s melodic burnoff, Fonda is in his element, his presence superbly rendered by the recording engineer, his sound characterised by deep, plummy resonance even as his performance is punched in with phenomenal precision.

“Martin´s Stew” follows “3dom Factor”, Altschul gambolling playfully over a mesh of terse double-bass bowing and splashing out on peripheral percussion: car horn, whistle, Swanee whistle, shaker, etc. The bassist later switches to thumping, stepwise progressions beneath Irabagon’s conversationally loquacious licks.

Altschul is perhaps best known for his early 70s work alongside Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Anthony Braxton in Circle, but he was also a member of the PaulBley trio that recorded Ballads, a milestone of jazzical rumination, and the drummer remains adept at sculpting chiselled silences. It’s this aspect of his talent we now hear on “Irina”, a ballad of pungently maudlin emotional heft. Another ballad, “Just A Simple Song” highlights Irabagon’s deft grasp of tone and lustrous, romantic nuance.

“Irina” was originally essayed on an early 80s FAB recording, Brahma, as were two other tracks in the present collection. “Papa´s Funkish Dance” was first heard on the 1985 Soul Note album That’s Nice. Here it’s played with short duple-time drum breaks that would tax any samplist’s creative talents. Irabagon pecks out an accompaniment, apparently while thinking about clown cars.

In his brief album note, Altschul approvingly cites the dictum “From Ragtime to No Time”: “That means to know, and not be afraid to use, the music’s history as well as newer concepts in spontaneous improvised music”. We hear that fearless clearly on “Oops”, a new composition, on which Altschul channels Calypso rhythms before taking a vigorous drums solo; and on “Natal Chart”, another vigorous piece, this one enlivened with rumbunctious Dixieland polyphony.

The only piece here not composed by Altschul is a take on Carla Bley’s “Ictus”, as once interpreted by the Jimmy Guiffre trio. The 3dom Factor version is a short, frantic post-bop with Irabagon Birdlike, Fonda walking briskly, and Altschul breaking out in a solo of contained thunder.

The drummer increasingly owns the session as it progresses, and he concludes the set with a solo improvisation of circumscribed power and virtuosity, simply titled A Drummer´s Song.

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One thought on “Barry Altschul ‎– The 3dom Factor

  1. great ! May I add that Barry Altschul was playing and touring a lot with Sam Rivers in the seventies ( 74 to 78 in the same time with Braxton quartet) and that Barry had a great trio with Mark Helias & Ray Anderson . This trio was called BRAHMA and recorded two albums Brahman for Sackville and a live recording for Moers Music, plus a quartet album “For Stu” on the Soul Note label with Anthony Davis. This is fantastic that Barry is working again , composing and recording. One of my fave drummers of all time.

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