Harris Eisenstadt: Canada Day III (2012)
The third installment in drummer Harris Eisenstadt's Canada Day adventure follows the same winning formula as established by Canada Day (Clean Feed, 2008) and Canada Day II (Songlines, 2011),carving out a distinctive niche on the contemporary jazz borderlands, with a nod to the '60s Blue Note territory of pianist Andrew Hill and reedmen Sam Rivers and Eric Dolphy. Recorded after touring, the band has thoroughly internalized the program, which has a harder edge than its predecessors, achieving a perfect balance between thoughtful arrangements and space for individuals to shine.
Even with when restricted to a quintet, Eisenstadt deploys an orchestral conception. Indeed, several of the cuts include material originally intended for a through-composed orchestral work premiered at Columbia University in June 2011. An African influence can be detected in the hocketing lines which distribute the melody line rhythmically around the ensemble. Each piece has multiple sections and tempos, but they don't manifest as a series of nervy jump cuts. Instead an inner logic and flow holds sway which makes them seem deceptively straightforward.
Although the writing is really the focal point, it is given good-natured expression by the group. From the relaxed lope of "Slow and Steady," where a wistful feeling of suspended time belies the rhythmic complexity detailed in the liners, via the sunny "Song for Sara," one of the more emotionally direct tracks, dedicated to Eisenstadt's wife and spotlighting sparkling vibraphone by Chris Dingman, to the concluding "King of the Kutiriba for Mamady Danfa," featuring fugue-like voicings around a lazily elegiac beat, the five musicians operate as a solid unit.
The solos tend to be short and integral. Both trumpeter Nate Wooley and tenor saxophonist Matt Bauder negotiate the melodic and rhythmic contours with sufficient aplomb to insert their own crafty timbral diversions. Contrasts abound; on "Nosey Parker," a note-shredding soliloquy from Wooley gives way to lyrical tenor evoking Lester Young. Typically, Bauder tends to be cool and poised, even creating a nagging hook in his feature on "Settled." The leader's only solo comes on the hurdy gurdy "A Whole New Amount of Interactivity," although he otherwise buoys, propels, steers and gracefully binds the disparate parts together. That modesty cannot, however, mask the fact that Eisenstadt has become one of finest writers for small groups, which continues to stretch and improve on this accomplished album.
Track Listing: Slow and Steady ; Settled; A Whole New Amount of Interactivity; The Magician of Lublin; Song for Sara; Nosey Parker; Shuttle off this Mortal Coil; King of the Kutiriba.
Personnel: Harris Eisenstadt: drums, compositions; Garth Stevenson: bass; Chris Dingman: vibraphone; Nate Wooley: trumpet; Matt Bauder: tenor saxophone.