Veteran drummer Barry Altschul has enjoyed something of a late career resurgence over the last decade. Work with co-operatives such as the FAB Trio, as well as with trombonists Steve Swell and Roswell Rudd presaged his first leadership date for a quarter of a century in 3dom Factor (TUM Records, 2013). That trio with bassist Joe Fonda and saxophonist Jon Irabagon reunites for Tales Of The Unforeseen. Recorded in the studio following a weeklong tour, the threesome proves exceptionally well-attuned on a program of six (largely) seat-of-the-pants adventures, lavishly packaged with TUM Records customary pizzazz.
Altschul confirms himself a master of free-bop, as he creates an irregular but still swinging pulse which incorporates a expansive range of textures, all delivered in crisp and precise manner. Fonda is likewise surefooted, purposeful and, crucially, able to conjure structure out of thin air (check out his intro to "The Tale Continues"). As if that weren't enough, in Irabagon you have one of the most fluent improvisers on the scene today, who both extemporizes melodies and tests the limits of the saxophone's sound making capacities, while remaining firmly within the jazz vernacular.
At over 26-minutes the opening "As The Tale Begins" provides a broad canvas on which the trio can paint its signature style. After commencing with throbbing bass, a rhythmic saxophone invention and conversational drums, the three principals continually evolve the contrapuntal interplay without missing a beat. Among the highlights are an Altschul solo at 12,' a passage of remarkable mewling saxophone tonalities at 14' and a funky cymbal cadence through which are woven Fonda's arco scrapes and Irabagon's saxophone blurts at 18.'
Elsewhere, "A Tale Of Monk: Ask Me Now" weaves a song from the live repertoire into a woozy ballad feel, with Fonda's lively pizzicato holding onto the coat tails of Irabagon's storytelling verve. Another tune "Annette's Tale Of Miracles," recalled by Altschul from his days with the Paul Bley trio, serves as an exhibition for Irabagon's soprano. The leader displays his chops on the unaccompanied "A Drummer's Tale," toying with pitch, timbre and time. Beginning in three way interchange, with Irabagon on flute, the concluding "And The Tale Ends" morphs into a bluesy vamp, with the reedman preaching on tenor before a fade out which suggests they might be going on forever. And one can't help but hope they do.
As the Tale Begins; A Tale of Monk: Ask Me Now; The Tale Continues; Annette´s Tale of Miracles; A Drummer´s Tale; And the Tale Ends.
Barry Altschul drums, percussion; Jon Irabagon: tenor, soprano and sopranino saxophones, flute; Joe Fonda: double bass.
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