Legendary drummer Barry Altschul
, known for his historic collaborations with innovative and influential musicians as Paul Bley
, Anthony Braxton
and Sam Rivers
, knows much about the concept of freedom in music. To be free, as he states in the liner notes, one needs choices and a large vocabulary of musical choices. Atlschul has plenty of choices. He is associated with the avant-garde terrains of jazz but his own compositions maintain a deep love to bop structure and harmonic movement. He is also well-versed with post-modern chamber jazz and can write suggestive jazz ballads.
Celebrating now his 70th birthday with first recording as leader in over a quarter of century, Altschul can demonstrate the qualities that made him a great drummer. The instant, authoritative, assertion of pulse and form, the ability to color it with wise and subtle usage of cymbals and rubbed drum heads, instinctual communication and emphatic rapport with musical partners and boundless energy. And when he teams with long-standing colleague, bass master Joe Fonda
and brilliant saxophonist Jon Irabagon
the success is guaranteed.
The title composition stresses Altschul sense of freedom. The powerful pulse shifts and swings constantly, demanding immediate, playful responses from Fonda and Irabagon. Other, older compositions emphasize Altschul as a multifaceted composer. "Martin's Stew," dedicated to fellow drummer Martin Stu, who also developed an interest in free expression, is a propulsive exploration of a simple, repetitive pulse. The updated version of the beautiful ballad "Irina" is used as a vehicle for the three musicians to reminiscent their personal, touching impressions on a love story long gone. "Just A Simple Song" is another heartfelt ballad with that feature impressive solo by Fonda.
Other compositions allow Altschul to demonstrates his great love and remarkable knowledge of jazz history, or as drummer Beaver Harris
phrased it: from-ragtime-to-no-time. "Papa's Funkish Dance" is a soulful homage to drummer heroes Papa Jo Jones
, Kenny Clarke
and Philly Joe Jones
, feature Altschul's firm hold of the groove. "Be Out S'Cool" references Thelonious Monk
's "Misterioso" but with intensified, shifting pulse. "Oops" introduces a Rollins-like calypso vamp that enables Irabagon to color the sensual, rolling rhythms.
The concise cover Carla Bley's classic "Ictus" highlights Altschul ability to center centrifugal energies with an explicit pulse. The following, "Natal Chart," based on the tonal representations of the planets included in the astrological chart of Altschul's birthday, goes even further. The complex, polyphonic pulse blossoms as a hard-swinging dixieland stomp. Atlschul concludes with an improvised solo that tells a detailed story, full of drama, tension and passion.
Highly enjoyable and inspiring.