Bruce Eisenbeil: Inner Constellation, v.1 & Nixon is Dead?

Martin Longley By

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Bruce Eisenbeil Sextet
Inner Constellation, volume one

The Nabobs
Nixon is Dead?

Guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil is the connecting force between these two discs, also being a member of The Nabobs improvising collective. As a leader, Eisenbeil is still heartily into spontaneity, but it's less clear where his involved compositional organization ends and the band's own free flying begins.

Inner Constellation's main mass is taken up with its title piece, which sprawls over 27 tracks, many of them only a minute or less in duration. Eisenbeil states that it should be treated as a single piece, even though these parts have been individually titled. Ignore the sleeve and your disc-player's readout, then the work will flow past with the oneness of a single entity, sounding relaxedly improvised in its playing, due to player familiarity in the buildup to its real time recording. The piece is riddled with changeable parts, but these transitions sound completely natural. It's an ambitious capturing of extreme energy forces.

Eisenbeil's electric guitar has an acoustic ring to its strings, a jazz tone with a rock attack. The soloing is free-form, but within complex, fast-changing frameworks. The leader, violinist Jean Cook and alto saxophonist Aaron Ali Shaikh have recently spent time playing with Cecil Taylor and Eisenbeil is clearly influenced by his structures, prompted to revisit albums made by the pianist's late '70s sextet. Relationships are continually shifting between structured groups and solo outbreaks, with the sextet members constantly switching allegiance. Cook's violin resonates with a beautiful friction, glorying in the dragged bow and the woody groan, often at an accelerated level. Eisenbeil is monstrously detailed in his gush of notes, while trumpeter Nate Wooley frequently gurgles evocatively down at the trombone end of his range. The entire piece is dynamic and resourceful, nostalgic for the heyday of freely improvised extremity yet rarely does nostalgia sound so driven and vital. The closing three pieces are taut (and short) improvs on acoustic guitar in the Derek Bailey vein, Eisenbeil accompanied by Tom Abbs (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums).

Eisenbeil is emphatically plugged-in when playing with The Nabobs, a combo where only saxophonist Blaise Siwula knew all the players, most meeting for the first time. Empathy was immediate and it shows on Nixon is Dead?'s six fearsome workouts. Mario Rechtern, from Vienna, is Siwula's saxophonic partner of doom, with both reedmen operating soprano and sopranino horns, providing maximum animal-death frequency-zones in the stereo field. Their squabbling encounters do volume-battle with Eisenbeil's frenetic riff-hammering (that's riff as in deft flashing, rather than leaden pounding). Wilbo Wright plays electric bass with a trebly bite, when he's not distortedly vocalizing into his ukulele pick-up. Drummer Ray Sage leads the way in rock or funk monomania breakouts, where the quintet will latch onto a repetitive bludgeon-figure, then surprise when they chase off back into freedom. These guys rock, but in a highly abstract manner.

Tracks and Personnel

Inner Constellation, volume one

Tracks: 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.

Nixon is Dead?

Tracks: I Am Not a Crook; And Checkers Doesn't Look Too Good Either; Tricky Dick; Me and My 5 O'Clock Shadow; 18 Minute Gap; Elvis Is High...!.

Personnel: Wilbo Wright: bass; Bruce Eisenbeil: guitar; Blaise Siwula: saxophones; Ray Sage: drums.


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