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Last year TUM Records released the immaculate Ancestors by Wadada Leo Smith and Louis Moholo-Moholo, their first recording together, and the label has continued its valuable work of seeking out influential musicians whose music does not comfortably sit with commercial or even critical trends despite their renown. With the release of The 3dom Factor (****) Barry Altschul, who turned 70 in January, the Helsinki label has again come up trumps. Altschul, best known for 1971 album A.R.C. with Chick Corea and Dave Holland and on Chick’s The Song of Singing as well as Arista-period Anthony Braxton, is joined by ex-Wadada bassist Joe Fonda, and Jon Irabagon, the Mostly Other People Do The Killing avatar, here playing tenor saxophone. It’s adventurous free jazz in the Ornette Coleman sense, its freedom, alphanumerical or not, in the way it leaps bar-lines and lets rhythms simply flow. It’s never about the ‘one’. Tracks include Altschul’s  ‘Irina’, ‘Natal Chart’, ‘Oops’, and Carla Bley’s ‘Ictus’. TUM has risen to the challenge of doing justice to this special release, Altschul’s first as a leader in more than 25 years, making it into an event, by adding insightful portraiture, a scholarly essay, and signature Marianna Uutinen paintings. The drummer says in his own introductory note that he looks at free jazz in terms of Beaver Harris’ phrase ‘from Ragtime to No Time’ so there’s no fear, he explains, to “know, and not be afraid to use, the music’s history as well as newer concepts in spontaneous improvised music.” Altschul’s idea that “to be free, one needs choices” is more than borne out on The 3dom Factor. It’s quite meditative at times; and, alternately, illuminated with a wildness that the three channel wonderfully making the music that bit more substantial. Irabagon is like the commentator on the rhythm; while Fonda is the wise observer occasionally stepping in as the music demands as he does experimentally on ‘Be Out S’cool.’ It’s all cool.  

Stephen Graham

Out now

Barry Altschul, above. Photo: Dmitry Mandel