Even deep into a career which began with the Jazz Composers Orchestra and pianist Paul Bley in the 1960s, drummer Barry Altschul's music remains vital and compelling. Since 2010 his primary leadership outlet has been The 3Dom Factor, a freewheeling threesome completed by bassist Joe Fonda and reedman Jon Irabagon. Long Tall Sunshine, a live date from an unspecified year and location, constitutes the band's fourth album. While the repertoire might be familiar four of the five cuts also appear on the outfit's eponymous debut (TUM, 2010)what they do with it is not.
Altschul's punchy themes serve as fertile jumping-off points for diverse flavors of group interaction. Take "The 3Dom Factor," a sometimes frantic, sometimes decelerated blast through the unit's signature number. After a thorny bass and drum thicket, Irabagon tackles the head on tenor saxophone at a ludicrously fast tempo, setting the scene for both scintillating interplay and a pizzicato break bursting with energy and typically poised swing from Fonda. But what really crowns the performance is Irabagon's final cadenza, reaching forward and back in style, contrasting boppish phrases with staccato plosives and smeared raspberries in a bravura display.
In his early forties, the saxophonist may be too old to term prodigious, but he is still one of the most fluent players on the scene, able to do it all, observing no distinction between inside and out, as evidenced by his sojourn with the irreverent Mostly Other People Do the Killing, and since with John Zorn, Dave Douglas and other discerning employers. He is the jewel in the crown here too, taking solos both jubilant and impish, negotiating the rhythmic shifts with verve, before exploring every nook and cranny of the charts, stretching them almost to the limit, if not beyond.
Fonda shares an 18-year partnership with the leader, having initially hooked up in the FAB Trio along with violinist Billy Bang. Consequently the pair enjoys a near symbiotic relationship whether crisply demarcating the bends and chicanes, trading textures and colors, or driving propulsive riffs. For once in the limelight, opening "Martin's Stew," Altschul once more demonstrates the satisfying balance of cadence and astute tonal inventiveness which made him a mainstay of classic combos such as Sam Rivers' trio and Anthony Braxton's quartet back in the 1970s.
Everyone has terrific fun. Even when tunes are played straight there is a twist, as on "Be Out S'cool" where Irabagon handles the free-bop theme restatement on the diminutive soprillo in an outlandishly high register which can't help but raise a smile. It all goes to show that having a great time is no inhibitor of adventurous music making.
Long Tall Sunshine; The 3Dom Factor; Irina; Be Out S’Cool; Martin’s Stew.
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