Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Harris Eisenstadt - Canada Day III [Songlines]

Nate Wooley - trumpet
Matt Bauder - tenor saxophone
Chris Dingman - vibraphone
Garth Stevenson - bass
Harris Eisenstadt - drums, compositions

Songlines Recordings 2012

As I come to think of it, it seems to me that a drummer/bandleader is exclusively a jazz phenomenon. The number of bad jokes about the drummers says a lot but I remember being told a story of an audience member being surprised that a drummer can actually bring compositions to a jazz group ("do you mean, he hums you to the melody?") as if a notion of a musical notation would have to have to beyond the capacity of any man who just rhythmically hits things with sticks.
Put the above reflection beside. Harris Eisenstadt is not only a versatile drummer and acknowledged bandleader, he's a masterful composer and arranger, his work distinguished by great attention to colorful sound palette and rhythmic texture - to one's mind come albums like "Guewel" (jazz arrangaments for drums and four horns of classic Mbalax songs - Senegalese pop music), "Woodblock Prints" (inspired by japanese graphic art; instrumentation:drums, bass, tuba, basson, guitar, french horn, trombne, clarinet, alto saxophone). Or, as a matter of fact, both previous releases by the Candada Day quintet.

There's some outstanding musicianship in full display on this album. Nate Wooley's trumpet solos are cutting straight to the point, poignant and daring, Bauder's saxophone tends towards gentler and beautifully melodic solos, Dingman is the anchor of the group's sound, his vibes resonate long and colorful cords provide a dream-like soundscape, outlined by the versatile, thoughtful Eisenstadt's drumming and groovy and melodic bass lines by Garth Stevenson.

But the clue of the album are the compositions - melodic, catchy tunes and inventive arrangaments that combine lyrical with energetic drive, rhythms twisting back and forth between jazz ballad, waltz, fast bop, rock, march, funk in various meters. Eisenstadt's compositions are a discrete art of balance between paradox and synthesis. 
"Slow and Steady"'s slow melody has sort of a music-box charm to it, sliding gracefully as the band switches the rhythmic context. 
"Magician of Lublin" is fun, nonchalant and bluesy, with an almost cartoony trumpet, and a nice dynamic sax-drums duo at the end. 
"Song for Sara" a heart-warming ballad featuring first the soulful saxophone solo, then the joyful trumpet, the lush vibes till all the instruments weave the melody together in the coda, you might feel some sunny south-african echoes in the melody (a piece dedicated to leader's wife Sara Schoenbeck). "Nosey Parker" which alternates between a funky beat, charming long tones, with some aerial equilibristics on trumpet in between. The solemn and majestic 
"King of Kutriba" closes the album, a sort of a canon, with a sweet melody being passed between the instruments, swaying graciously over the modest bass line.

"Canada III" is a collection of brilliant compositions, strikingly modern yet also very accessibly album that is a pure pleasure to listen to and you might want to hum the melodies, tap your toes to the rythm or delve into the tasty details of the arrangements and solos. Not only it's great jazz. It's also a kind of music that  won't scare your neighbours which is not to be undervalued. 

the sound quality of the video below leaves a lot to desire but it should serve as well as an invitation to get the cd.

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