Altschul is the common denominator on these two excellent reissues of early ’80s records, and if anyone is unconvinced that he is one of the great drummers of his generation, there’s proof on every track here. He is joined on Irina by Enrico Rava, John Surman and Mark Helias in a program ranging from originals to “Jitterbug Waltz.” It’s great to hear the two hornmen in such fine fettle. Their solos are excellent, and much of the music involves group improvs with the horns in tandem, which is even better. The interplay is reminiscent of Don Cherry with Gato. Time and again somebody plays something good and Altschul hits a perfect punctuation that inspires the music to greater heights. Helias’ big sound and big ears are evident throughout.
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