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It's a bold few decisions Harris Eisenstadt makes The All-Seeing Eye + Octets. He starts it off by covering the whole of Wayne Shorter's The All Seeing Eye (Blue Note, 1965), but arranges it for new instrumentation and then pairs that with two suites of his own. It's the sort of thing you'd better know you can pull off if you're going to try.
Fortunately, Eisenstadt does. He reworks Shorter's septet considerably. The original Blue Note session was an all-star, horn-driven band: Shorter and James Spaulding on saxophones, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and flugelhorn and Grachan Moncur III on trombone (with brother Alan Shorter joining in on flugelhorn for the final piece, his own composition "Mephistopheles ), backed by pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Joe Chambers.
It is very much a composed suite, and so individual voices don't stand to be acknowledged the way a reworking of, say, John Coltrane's Ascension (Impulse!, 1965) or Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch (Blue Note, 1964) might demand. But Eisenstadt takes his arrangement further from the original by setting it for two clarinets, bassoon, trumpet, vibes and drums. Interestingly, the trumpet is the only instrument that remains from the front line. In the notes for the original album Shorter is quoted as saying that Hubbard "was essential...for those top notes in ensemble passages. The trumpet retains a leading role here, voiced by Daniel Rosenbloom.
Eisenstadt's take, however, doesn't stray too far from Shorter's own recording. It clocks in at about ten minutes under the original and the woodwinds and vibes give it a different tone, but the feeling remains the same. It's a well-done, reverential take on 1960s open jazz composition.
Having assembled a group to record in Los Angeles, Eisenstadt didn't want to leave it at the one project, so, the drummer arranged two big band suites of his own"Without Roots and "What We Were Told, each running just over fifteen minutes. And, just as Shorter added another horn to close out his record, Eisenstadt adds a second trumpet for his. The playing is, perhaps, a little more lively, the pieces unsurprisingly more modern, but they work well with the first half of the disc. A bold move, yes, but one that speaks well for Eisenstadt as a composer and bandleader.
Track Listing: The All Seeing Eye; Genesis; Chaos; Face of the Deep; Mephistopheles; Without Roots I; Without Roots II; Without Roots III; What We Were Told; What We Were Told II; What We Were Told III.
Personnel: Harris Eisenstadt: drums; Daniel Rosenboom: trumpet; Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon; Brian Walsh: clarinet (1, 3), bass clarinet (2, 4-11); Andrew Plask: clarinet (2, 4-11), bass clarinet (1, 3); Chris Dingman: vibraphone; Scott Walton: acoustic bass; Aaron Smith: trumpet (6-11); Marc Lowenstein: conductor (6-11).