Barry Altschul

The 3Dom Factor
TUM CD 032

Maintaining his creativity after more than 50 years as a professional musician, this first-rate CD of improvisations and mostly originals by drummer Barry Altschul, 70, proves that when it comes to the creative musician, age is just a number.

Over the years Altschul, who lived for extended periods in France as well as the United States, has provided the rhythmic impetus behind innovators ranging from veterans like pianist Paul Bley and saxophonist Sam Rivers to younger players such as bassist Adam Lane. The 3Dom Factor offers more of the same. Versatile bassist Joe Fonda is a decade younger than the drummer, while fiery tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon is 35 years his junior. Still it’s accord and experience which account for the sympathetic interaction here. Altschul, Fonda and the late violinist Billy Bang made up the FAB trio; while bassist Mark Helias and Altschul fill out Irabagon’s Foxy trio. Crucially the session also gives the drummer an opportunity to revisit some of his compositions first recorded in the 1970s and 1980s.

Cooperative fluency is apparent throughout, with Fonda’s bass lines moving from juddering stops to bluesy interpolations, and Irabagon swelling, swallowing, masticating and expelling every sort of timbre from his horn. As for Altschul, he uses all parts of his kit and a few add-ons to extend the performances.

One outstanding example of this is “Oops”, a new composition based on a rhythm the drummer first heard in Mali. Resembling a calypso with the percussionist coloring the lines with rim and side smacks plus cymbal accents, Altschul eventually breaks up the beat with palm pops and crunches. Here the tenor saxophonist brings a Caribbean-lilt to his solo, not surprising considering his basic Sonny Rollins-like orientation, as Fonda adds to the relentless rhythm with double stops. The bassist’s quadruple-stopping arco introduces “Martin’s Stew” – named for the late drummer Stu Martin and recorded twice previously – with Irabagon’s Latinesque theme variations providing the sinewy theme extensions. But the real exposition depends on the composer’s use of vibrating rods plus slide whistle shrilling to add tension to the piece. Also often recorded, the drummer’s “Be Out S’Cool”, a “Misterioso” contrafact, is a showcase for the saxman’s carefully controlled freneticism as he runs the changes with jagged reed bites, lip burbles and a continuous squeal. Figuratively sinking his teeth into the arrangement, Irabagon also pecks alongside Fonda’s stops and spiccato accents, while Altschul`s rolling backbeat properly paces the tune.

Elsewhere the reedist demonstrates a moderato balladic form on “Irina”, with his emotion paced by the drummer’s drags and cowbell snaps. Carla Bley’s “Ictus” is given a super-fast, staccato reading with bass drum accents, while the concluding “A Drummer´s Song” is a text-book example of how to construct a solid percussion edifice without raising the volume.

A sophisticated and conscientious drum stylist matched with a sympathetic band, the only noise associated with this session will be the huzzahs from satisfied listeners.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. The 3dom Factor 2. Martin´s Stew I 3. Irina 4. Papa’s Funkish Dance 5. Be Out S’Cool 6. Oops 7. Just A Simple Song 8. Ictus 9. Natal Char 10. A Drummer´s Song

Personnel: Jon Irabagon (tenor saxophone); Joe Fonda(bass) and Barry Altschul (drums)