NPR : Fresh Air

Filed Under:

Barry Altschul: The Jazz Drummer Makes A Comeback

The release last year of a 2007 reunion by the late Sam Rivers' trio confirmed what a creative drummer Altschul is. He has been one for decades. Altschul was a key player on the 1970s jazz scene, when the avant-garde got its groove on. Now, as then, he's great at mixing opposites: funky drive with a spray of dainty coloristic percussion, abstract melodic concepts with parade beats, open improvising and percolating swing. He's a busy player, but never too loud — he's also busy listening.

The 3dom Factor is the sort of comeback album that reminds you how much good music the artist made the first time around. Half the tunes are catchy Altschul oldies. The drummer had already bonded with his telepathically simpatico bassist Joe Fonda in a co-op trio with the late violinist Billy Bang. Fonda is as perfect for Altschul now as bassist Dave Holland was in the '70s, which is saying a lot.

On tenor saxophone in "Papa's Funkish Dance" is the prodigiously, sometimes ridiculously talented Jon Irabagon. His own records often lean toward his antic, wild-man side. That's tamped down a bit here, but not too much. The saxophonist gets to do it all: perform a tender or comic lead, or play a quiet supporting role, or indulge his taste for the outlandish outsize gesture. Irabagon is like a younger generation's Sonny Rollins.

Like other drummers, Barry Altschul writes tunes that play complex games with rhythm. A new one, "Oops," takes off from a walking-camel beat he'd heard in Mali, seasoned with some of the Latin rhythms he'd learned growing up in the South Bronx. Altschul said recently that as a composer, he just wants to write tunes that are fun to play. Now, there's an old putdown of jazz and improvised music: that it sounds like more fun to play than to listen to. I never bought into that myself. Hearing musicians play inspiring material, and link up on the fly, and surprise themselves and each other — that's entertainment. The fun is infectious.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Villainous Scheme Makes Dozens A Few Minutes Late

A 40-foot inflatable "minion" — the yellow, unintelligible sidekicks from the Despicable Me movies who recently were given their own spinoff — broke loose and blocked traffic in Dublin this week.
WAMU 88.5

The Surprising Roots of Barbecue

We speak with culinary historian Michael Twitty about the roots of familiar southern dishes in African and Native American food traditions.

WAMU 88.5

President Obama's Iran Speech

Veteran journalist Marvin Kalb joins us to discuss the parallels between JFK's nuclear disarmament speech fifty years ago and President Obama's speech on the nuclear deal with Iran.

WAMU 88.5

The Future Of D.C. Taxis: Ernest Chrappah Discusses Competition And Change

The new chairman of the D.C. Taxicab Commission wants to make it a nimble, innovating agency. He discussed those goals and the related challenges with WAMU 88.5's Martin Di Caro.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.