Presenting two extended compositions played by two different large ensembles, Harris Eisenstadt's Ahimsa Orchestra highlights the percussionist/composer's emergence as an artistic force to be reckoned with. Eisenstadt gathers an impressive array of West Coast improvisers and feeds them charts inspired by his broad musical interests. Recorded live, the improvisations often launch from segments of music composed in a contemporary classical vein.
The three part Non-Violence suite opens with growls from Noah Phillips' guitar and Eisenstadt's scampering percussion. An inquisitive figure in the double reeds gives way to Toyoji Tomita's understated muted trombone solo. Phillip Greenleaf walks his clarinet on the ceiling, Phillips' guitar buzzing underneath. Part 2 features a dialogue between the guitars with brisk metallic percussion. Kris Tiner and Liz Allbee trade trumpet remarks, then Eisenstadt's brisk hand drumming backs another free flight by Greenlief. The guitars resume their conversation to end it. The ensemble shakes off its reverie for the intro to Part 3, but the free fanfare deflates to a small wind group. Atmospheric writing for horns with subtle vibraphone brings it to a close.
The second suite, "Relief, adds Alex Cline on percussion for a wider swath of percussion textures. Brian Walsh boils on clarinet, followed by Sara Schoenbeck's duet with trombonist George McMullen. Ellen Burr bends and sprays flute notes while Dan Clucas plays an elegant interlude on trumpet. Part 3 features blistering bass clarinet by Vinny Golia against a back drop of thundering percussion. Part 4 features a devastating Dan Clucas solo where the gifted trumpeter splashes warm colors over the insistent groove.
Ahimsa Orchestra celebrates the active West Coast avant-garde scene with two focused large ensemble suites that also showcase his strengths as a composer.