Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor – Live in Krakow (Not Two, 2017) ****

By Gustav Lindqvist

Jon Irabagon - tenor and sopranino saxophones
Joe Fonda - bass
Barry Altschul - drums

Following the 2015 5th place album of the year here at FJB, Tales of the Unforeseen, here’s a live album from this great trio, recorded live at the Alchemia club in Krakow, Poland (December 4th, 2016). Long time jazz drummer Barry Altschul is joined by bassist Joe Fonda, again a veteran who’s played with Anthony Braxton, Leo Smith and Archie Shepp – just to mention a very brief selection. Again, an artist and composer of the highest order. Jon Irabagon is a new voice for me personally. I know of his playing on Mary Halvorsons 5-star album ‘Away With You’ but I must admit that outside of that and his work with Altschul, I don't know too much. Any pointers to other albums would be much appreciated.

The concert starts with ‘Martin’s Stew’ (from their first album). A 3+ minute drum introduction builds up to a boiling point, Fonda joins in and we’re off. Saxophonist Irabagon’s got a meaty sound that leads the way through this first song. There’s a theme which is twisted and turned inside out. The trio is insanely tight. Fonda switches to bow alongside the beat of Altschul and we’re treated with some very nice bass playing. I’m waiting for another explosion and sure enough – Irabagon comes thundering back in with that same theme, but this time it travels on top of Fonda’s bass. Exquisite!

‘Ask Me Now’, being a Monk standard, also heard on the trio’s sophomore album is treated very well and is presented in a balanced and elegant way. Up next is For Papa Joe, Klook, and Philly Too’ a nice nod to giants from the ‘drummer’s guild’. It’s hard bop on steroids with everything included, yes a very cool bass solo as well. The fourth song, ‘Irina’ is another mellow song which is one part Irabagon and one part Fonda, who’s beautiful and lyrical playing seduces me, until Irabagon comes back in. The rest of the song continues more like a serenade, but I suspect the 3Dom factor has another punch up their sleeve.

Indeed. The closing number, the 14-minute-long ‘The 3Dom Factor’, is how I’ve learned to enjoy this trio the most. Like a well-oiled train they’re steaming and flying across the stage at a blistering pace. Suddenly there’s three unique voices making themselves heard, going in and out of each other’s ideas. Suddenly the trio comes to a change of pace, and I almost expect the song to come to a halt, but it’s all planned. Increase of pace and they’re off again. Irabagon charges onward for another run of stuttering notes, Fonda takes a turn together with Altschul. A dissonant balancing act immerses. There’s such an amount of detail in this song. Irabagon surprises me with reinventing the tune again and again, and Altschul and Fonda are truly up for it. Altschul’s charging onward, forward, upwards. The song seems to run out of its own notes and this great live performance album is over.

I’m hoping to hear more from this trio soon, this live performance demonstrates a trio in very nice shape and form. I can also highly recommend their 2 studio albums, and I'm looking forward to hearing more from Irabagon!

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