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Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor: Long Tall Sunshine (Not Two)

A review of the drummer-led group's album recorded on their 2019 reunion tour

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Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor: Long Tall Sunshine
The cover of Long Tall Sunshine by Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor

Recorded somewhere along the 3Dom Factor’s 2019 reunion tour, Long Tall Sunshine is the sort of album that will leave listeners wondering why these guys ever imagined it was a good idea to quit. Even though each of the 3Dom three came to prominence in a different era–drummer Barry Altschul in the ’60s and ’70s with Paul Bley, Chick Corea, and Anthony Braxton; bassist Joe Fonda in the ’80s and ’90s with Braxton and Wadada Leo Smith; and reedman Jon Irabagon in the aughts and teens with Mary Halvorson and Mostly Other People Do the Killing—they share a remarkably simpatico approach to improvisation. To some extent, their sound is a throwback to the wild and woolly free improvisation of the post-Coltrane ’70s, but there’s never anything retro about the playing. Instead, the three manage repeatedly to find new ways to spark that old fire.

Maybe that’s because they’re as happy to play inside as out. Altschul’s “Long Tall Sunshine,” which opens the album, is in many ways a standard hard-bop head, and he and Fonda swing the hell out of it as Irabagon’s tenor gradually pushes the envelope. Fonda’s solo, which follows, is tuneful, symmetrical, and perfectly supported by Altschul’s graceful cymbal work. It isn’t until the play-out that the three start coloring outside the lines, but by then their mutuality is so well-established that it still seems of a piece with the more conventional opening.

The rest is more playful than iconoclastic. Yes, “The 3Dom Factor” starts with each player seemingly coming in from a different angle and tempo, but things coalesce magically with the head and the music proceeds with an almost telepathic sense of flow, while the charmingly Monk-ish “Be Out S’Cool” manages its sputtering rhythms with such grace that it manages to groove even in a free rubato. It’s interplay that verges on the miraculous, and one more reason to hope that the 3Dom Factor endures.

Learn more about Long Tall Sunshine on Amazon!

Barry Altschul: He’s Back (Though He Never Left)

Originally Published

J.D. Considine

J.D. Considine has been writing about jazz and other forms of music since 1977. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Musician, Spin, Vibe, Blender, Revolver, and Guitar World. He was music critic at the Baltimore Sun for 13 years, and jazz critic at the Globe and Mail for nine. He has lived in Toronto since 2001.