On Inner Constellation, his fifth release as a leader, New York-based guitarist and composer Bruce Eisenbeil attempts to link the musical worlds of John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton with the vocabulary of contemporary classical composers such as Elliot Carter, Iannis Xenakis, György Ligeti and Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Over two years, Eisenbeil composed "Inner Constellation," a composition that uses the instrumentation of Cecil Taylor's sextet from the late 1970s but alternates the piano with a loud Fender Stratocaster guitar. This forty-seven minute-plus composition, inspired by the stars in the night sky, features twenty-seven well-articulated themes that are followed by an extended improvisation for specific players. Eisenbeil describes this composition as a tone field that expands through six octaves, where the melodic line and the propulsive rhythm go horizontally, while they are balanced and pressured vertically by the constantly shifting chording and harmonies.
Eisenbeil says that the music explores an idyllic place "where people want to be part of a future that invites surprise and where spontaneity is welcome." He adds that this music offers a view of one's life after one has been devastated by loss, stating, "It is a splintered style of storytellingbreaking a mirror and piecing it together with small parts missing."
This spiritual quest, similar to Coltrane's or to a psychoanalytic process, is affirmed in the expressive titles that Eisenbeil gives to these pieces. Some are referring to Zen Buddhism, such as "Death Once Dead, No Dying Then," which quotes 17th-century Zen master Hakuin. Meanwhile, others reflect a full-minded and innocent exploration of the night phenomenon.
Challenging and cerebral? Obviously. But Eisenbeil and his sextet members are all alumnus of forward-thinking jazz and improvised music composers, and breathe so much passion and beauty into the music. Alto saxophonist Aaron Ali Shaikh performed and recorded with Taylor and Braxton; trumpeter Nate Wooly also performed with Braxton; violinist Jean Cook recorded with Braxton and performed with Taylor; bassist Tom Abbs has worked with Laurence "Butch" Morris and Borah Bergman; and drummer Nasheet Waits has worked with Andrew Hill, Peter Brötzmann and Steve Coleman.
Eisenbeil, who has also worked with Taylor and studied with harmonic theoretician Dennis Sandole (one of Coltrane's early teachers), follows his heroes and always seeks new ways to advance and revolutionize his capabilities as a musician and artist. Throughout these compositions, he and his sextet members play on themes that reflect a greater chaos and order. Each musician has enough room to maneuver and use this freedom to spice "Inner Constellation" with so many colors and expressions that all the scholastic introduction becomes redundant. It is such a remarkable composition, executed in such a striking and dynamic manner, that it is no doubt Eisenbeil's best recorded effort so far.
Eisenbeil closes the recording with three short pieces for a trio, two of which pay tribute to the improvisation techniques of guitarist Derek Bailey, while stressing the forceful rhythmic interaction of Abbs and Waits. The last piece, "Receding Storm," is a gentle and peaceful closure to this masterful and most satisfying recording.
Track Listing: Inner Constellation: Autumn Light, Elastic Horizon, Enter Fresh Juicy, Three Uninvited Guests, Clinging Fire, Being Drawn, Phat on the Runway, Effigy, Totem, Mask in Profile, Triple Astra Texture, Walkabout, Transformation, Death Once Dead, No Dying Then, Dream Breath, Richter Smears, Spiral Blue, Wormhole Thief, Red Pepper Pods, Add Wings to Them, Dragonfly, Eucalyptus, Spice Enters the Groovy Night, Autumn Clouds, Burning Nest, Keeping Still Mountain, Inner Constellation, Sonic Ocean; Rain in the Face; Cues to the Vagabond; Receding Storm.
Personnel: Bruce Eisenbeil: acoustic and electric guitars; Jean Cook: violin; Nate Wooley: trumpet; Aaron Al Shaikh: alto sax; Tom Abbs: acoustic bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.