Drummer Barry Altschul and saxophonist Jon Irabagon, born 35 years apart, have now collaborated on five trio albums, all ass-kickers. Two were led by Irabagon and three by Altschul in the project he calls the 3Dom Factor. They are both outcats who have sometimes performed in more straight-ahead settings. The fascination of Live in Kraków is hearing them move back and forth across the no man’s land that theoretically separates inside and outside jazz.
On the opening track, “Martin’s Stew,” Altschul begins quietly and alone. Thoughtful markings on cymbal and snare grow gradually louder. Then bassist Joe Fonda plunges the piece into runaway time. Irabagon enters, guns blazing. He is an exciting talent who plays the most grueling, blistering, hell-bent freebop you will ever experience. Ideas fly off him. His momentum usually carries him over the edge, where ideas shatter into chaos. He usually finds his way back. Altschul, almost 74 when this album was made, is similar: He drives powerfully forward but might interrupt himself, explosively, at any moment.
Apparently, Altschul does not write many tunes. Most here are at least 30 years old. They are more launch pads than songs. The exception is an actual ballad, “Irina.” Haltingly, tenderly, Irabagon renders the melody. You keep waiting for him to break loose, especially when he switches from tenor to sopranino. But he stays on message, in piercing treble. His solo is full of tough love and rough edges, which makes it more moving. On the only cover, Monk’s “Ask Me Now,” it is interesting to hear how a standard can be transformed simply by stating it in the raw, jagged language of this menacing ensemble.
Live in Kraków is the first club recording from the 3Dom Factor. The best way to hear this band is live and wild in the moment.