Barry Altschul: Another Time, Another Place
AAJ: And that was the gig led by [bassist] Adam Lane?
BA: Adam Lane called me to do this tour and record with him. I didn't know him at all and I didn't know how he played, and I was going to say no except that he had two cats in the band alreadyone I wanted to play with, and another I had already played with, a good friend I hadn't seen in years. So that was [trumpeter] Paul Smoker and [reedman] John Tchicai, and through Adam, I have a relationship with them. That was great, though, to hook up and play.
After that, three or four things started happening. I started to play with Dave Douglas, in a band that included Roswell Rudd. Me and Ros had known each other since the '60s, so we hooked up and I'm playing in his Trombone Shout band. We just did a recording that was six trombones and myself in the first half, and the second half will have [bassist] Henry Grimes and myself. It was with Roswell, Eddie Bert (who is 85 years old and playing his ass off! Not only that, we were in the studio from one until six and he had to run off for a gig that night!), Sam Burtis, Ray Anderson, Steve Swell, Deborah Weisz, and Wycliff Gordon. I recently did a duo recording with Braxton, as yet to find a home, and I've also been involved with the FAB trio with [bassist] Joe Fonda and [violinist] Billy Bang. So that's Fonda-Altschul-Bang, FAB.
BA: [laughs] I'm also involved in a group with [trombonist] Steve Swell and Gebhard Ullman, the German reed player, with Hilliard Greene on bass.
AAJ: Are you still teaching?
BA: Privately only, not through the school, but I expect to go back to adjunct next September. I also have my own band with either Ed Schuller or Hilliard Greene on bass, Hayes Greenfield on alto saxophone, and Jake Saslow on tenor (and when he can't make it, Paul Smoker covers for him). We did a thing called the New Orleans Congo Square Project and recorded a couple of tracks for that, but we're about to go in and record a CD. There's another trio I have with an electric bassist named Eric Udell, whose money gig is with the Blues Brothers, and Hayes Greenfield.
Finally, I just had a discussion with Mark Helias and Ray Anderson about doing the reunion thing. And of course there was the Sam Rivers Trio reunion recentlywe hadn't played in 25 or 30 yearsthis was in March at Columbia University. Me, Sam and Dave Holland did a concert with no rehearsals, just a sound check, and we hit and it was like old times! A couple of weeks ago, I did a reunion at the Iridium with Cameron Brown on bass, Roswell Rudd, Lafayette Harris on piano, and [vocalist] Sheila Jordangoing back to Flexible Flyer (Arista, 1975). Friday night was Roswell's birthday and Saturday was Sheila's.
AAJ: With all these experiences, has your philosophy shifted much?
BA: Philosophically, I've always felt that no matter what style of music I was involved in, it was part of the jazz continuum the way I see it. I always felt that no matter whose music I was playing, if they called me, it was because they wanted not just the concept I was bringing but the feeling of swing, even if it was music that didn't swing in the sense of 2 and 4.
Barry Altschul present day
AAJ: Right, the "ragtime to no-time" thing.
BA: Whereas the no-time was swinging as well. You know that's not my saying but Beaver Harris,' and I'd like him to get credit for that (because nobody ever gets that right).
AAJ: I noticed that it's been attributed to you, but I know Beaver Harris and his recordings are the germination of that idea.
BA: Yes, I always say, "As Beaver Harris said" and want to be sure he gets that. It's not my shit, but it's exactly how I conceptualize what I play. For me, the no-time is swinging in a way that just makes your body move, whether you're swaying or doing some kind of body motionwhatever makes your body move is swing, you don't necessarily have to snap your fingers.
AAJ: It's interesting how people give you looks if you're at a free gig and your body is moving with the music, tapping your feet, and it seems to confuse some folks.
BA: Well, it's motion, so if you put bar lines in there it'd be mathematically defined. Taking away the bar lines doesn't mean that you take away the feeling.
Thanks to Barry Altschul, Tom Marcello and the staff at All About Jazz New York for making this interview possible.
Joe Fonda/Barry Altschul/Billy Bang, Transforming the Space (CIMP, 2003)
Adam Lane, Four Beings (CIMP, 2002)
Barry Altschul and Brahma, Somewhere Else (Moers, 1979)
Barry Altschul, Another Time, Another Place (Muse, 1978)
Barry Altschul, You Can't Name Your Own Tune (Muse, 1977)
Sam Rivers, Paragon (Fluid, 1977)
Anthony Braxton, The Montreux/Berlin Concerts (Arista, 1975)
Circle, Live in German Concert (CBS, 1970)
Chick Corea, The Song of Singing (Blue Note, 1970)
Paul Bley, Blood (International Polydor, 1966)
The Jazz Composer's Orchestra, Communication (Fontana, 1966)
Paul Bley, Closer (ESP, 1965)