Barry Altschul (bornJanuary 6, 1943 , New York City) is a free jazz and hard bop drummer who gained fame in the late 1960s with the pianists Paul Bley and Chick Corea.
Altschul, having initially taught himself to play drums, studied with Charlie Persip during the 1960s. In the latter part of the decade, he performed with Paul Bley. In 1969 he joined with Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Anthony Braxton to form the group Circle. At the time, he made use of a high-pitched Gretsch kit with add-on drums and percussion instruments, which he integrated seamlessly in a whirlwind of sound.
In the 1970s Altschul worked extensively with Anthony Braxton's quartet featuring Kenny Wheeler, Dave Holland, and George Lewis. Braxton, signed to Arista Records, was able to secure a large enough budget to tour with a collection of dozens of percussion instruments, strings and winds. In addition to his participation in ensembles featuring avant-garde musicians, Altschul performed with Lee Konitz, Art Pepper and other "straight ahead" jazz performers.
Altschul also made albums as a leader, but after the mid-1980s he was rarely seen in concert or on record, spending much of his time in Europe. Since the 2000s, he has become more visible, with two sideman appearances on the CIMP label with the FAB trio (with Billy Bang and Joe Fonda), the Jon Irabagon Trio recording "Foxy", and the bassist Adam Lane. Altschul has played or recorded with many musicians, including Roswell Rudd, Dave Liebman, Barre Phillips, Denis Levaillant, Andrew Hill, Sonny Criss, Hampton Hawes, and Lee Konitz.