Friday, February 8, 2013

3 X 3 (February 2013)

In the past few weeks there has been much hoopla (deserved) for the new Wayne Shorter CD (his return to Blue Note after 4 decades) and Chris Potter's debut (also well-deserved) as a leader on ECM.  One fervently hopes that "The 3Dom Factor" (TUM), the new CD from drummer-composer Barry Altschul, (his first as a leader in a decade) does not get lost in the flurry (as I write this, in the "blizzard") of new music.

Why? Because this music, like Mr. Shorter's, is alive with possibilities, with intelligent interplay, and open-ended conversations.    Right from the get-go, Altschul, bassist Joe Fonda and tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon dig into this music with joy and abandon. The splendid recording by Robert Musso at Sears Sound posits the leader's trap set across the spectrum while the bass and saxophone hover in the middle.  This music has humor, nicely displayed on "Martin's Stew" (dedicated to the late drummer Stu Martin) bounces in among a bouncing bowed bass line and a conversation between the sax and drums (nice touch with the police whistle and other assorted toys. "Papa's Funkish Dance" has appeared on previous recordings under the name "For Papa Jo, Klook and Philly Too", a dedication to 3 of Altschul's drum heroes (Jo Jones, Kenny Clarke and ""Philly" Joe Jones) - here, however, the emphasis is on the "funk" and the "fun", Irabagon clucking and squealing while the leader and bassist lay down a wicked beat.  Altschul, who has traveled the world playing in all shapes of aggregations, picked up the rhythmic impulses for "Oops" in Mali while watching a camel walking.  Fonda's bass lines serve as a foundation for the exciting drum dances and Irabagon's braying tenor.

There are several handsome ballads, including "Just a Simple Song" (composed for a live recording by the FAB Trio - Fonda, Altschul and the late Billy Bang) and "Irina", first composed for the Brahma Trio of Altschul, Ray Anderson and Mark Helias.) The former tune may have a "simple" melody line but the musicians really dig in to the piece, Fonda's full-toned bass lines and Altschul's active brush work giving the saxophonist a platform for a very emotional solo.  The latter piece finds each member of the Trio stating the melody (yes, even Altschul, at times) before Irabagon delivers another emotionally-charged solo and Fonda plays yet another fine melodic solo.  I've known the bassist for nearly 4 decades and can honestly state his playing continues to grow and impress.

"The 3Dom Factor" is a welcome return for Barry Altschul, a musician ho has worked with Anthony Braxtom, Chick Corea, Sam Rivers, Dave Holland, Paul Bley, Roswell Rudd, Julius Hemphill and many others.  If you enjoy music that is serious fun, played by musicians who listen and respond with originality and wit, this CD belongs in your house.  For more information, go to  If you have yet to check out Harris Eisenstadt's comprehensive 3-part interview at Destination: OUT, go directly to and dig in!

Joe Fonda also shows up (and shows "big") on "Powers" (Konnex), a new recording featuring brothers Anders (guitar) and Peter Nilsson (drums).  The title track opens the proceedings with fiery rhythms and ferocious guitar work, reminding this listener of the late Sonny Sharrock.  He could really "shred" when he put his mind to it and there are moments on the opening track when Anders Nilsson truly catches fire.   When this trio "whispers", such as they do on "Tri-cep", the music has a melodic quality - of course, the guitarist begins to "champ" at the pick and the piece catches fire. Fonda can be such a muscular bassist, here locking with Peter Nilsson to really drive the music. The guitarist's "Vodka Meditations" has a "film noir" feel, with the bassist's "shivering" arco behind the blues-tinged guitar riffs.  During the guitar solo, Fonda alternates between "walking" lines and counterpoint.  He, also, contributes 3 fine compositions, the lovely "China" (originally composed for Fonda's Eastern Boundary Quartet),the bluesy "rocker" "I've Been Singing" (the latter having the feel of a ZZ Top cut), and the up-tempo romp "Fish Soup" that closes the CD on a rip-roaring note.  On that track, it's the bass and drums that initially deliver the "punch" but, about 1/2 way through, the guitarist begins to move a bit "out" as well as starts experimenting with his tones.  After an forceful bass solo, the song slowly and quietly fades on long tones and cymbal washes. The drummer contributes "Melodrone", a piece that opens with quiet chords, an insistent slow shuffle feel, and the guitarist playing the chordal melody without ornamentation.  To the trio's credit, they hold the "groove" while the dynamics do not waver all the way through and the piece fades on a short bass solo.

"Powers" mashes jazz, rock, blues-rock and more into an enjoyable sound "stew" - Anders and Peter Nilsson are both young veterans who have played jazz and rock in their native Sweden.  Anders has been based in New York City for the past 12 years, playing with bassists William Parker and Ken Filiano plus collaborating with vocalist Fay Victor.  Joe Fonda continues to be a major presence on the creative music scene, both in the US and abroad, creating music that holds to no one genre but is always exploratory and moving forward.  This trio has great potential and this CD is a smashing introduction. For more information, go to

Drummer-composer Dylan Ryan, a native of Chicago and graduate of DePaul University, is, perhaps, best known for his work with the group Herculaneum.  "Sky Bleached" (Cuneiform Records) is his first release with the trio known as Dylan Ryan/Sand and features guitarist Timothy Young (who has worked with Wayne Horvitz, the late Sam Rivers and John Zorn) and bassist Devin Hoff (who has played and recorded with clarinetist Ben Goldberg, guitarist Nels Cline and reed master Ken Vandermark.)  What one notices on first listen is the emphasis on melody, interplay and sonic experimentation that infuses this material - yes, it's a "guitar" trio but it's no ordinary "blowing session."  Pieces such as "White Nights", "Barocco", and "Translucent Spheres" have appealing rhythmic drive but are also bolstered by strong melody lines.  Other tracks, such as "Mayan Sun" and "Dreamspell", take a different tack, blending moaning, wailing and keening guitar sounds with fiery and forceful work from the bass and drums.  The former shows the influence of Jimi Hendrix, especially the "Axis: Bold as Love" recording and the guitar manipulations.  Then, there is the smashing take on Paul Motian's "White Magic" (a piece that first appeared on that drummer/composer's 1981 ECM Lp, "Psalm") - Ryan's trio picks upon the energy of the original (Bill Frisell's guitar work is stunning) and kicks it even harder.  Young has a touch of that "country twang" of Frisell, most evident on the impressionistic"Time Stalkers". Hoff and Ryan work together quite nicely, with the bassist playing both counterpoint and foundational lines throughout. The leader does not hold back, pushing this band with an infectious power and inventiveness that reminds this listener of the work of Hamid Drake and Chad Taylor.

"Sky Bleached" is an excellent recording, sounding quite impressive as it blasts from the speakers, shaking the walls and floors with a delightful sonic anarchy.  As a person who grew up in the era of rock guitar experimentation (the afore-mentioned Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Robert Fripp), Dylan Ryan/Sand has a strong appeal - yet, one can not and should not ignore the jazz feel that infuses this session.  Highly recommended!  For more information, go to

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