Canada Day has been drummer Harris Eisenstadt's flagship ensemble since its first gig on July 1, 2007his homeland's national holiday, hence the band name. In the ensuing years the quintet has developed an identifiably cohesive sound that expertly balances avant-garde explorations and in-the-pocket swing, with only one significant personnel change; the bass chair is now filled by Pascal Niggenkemper, the group's third bassist.
Eisenstadt's writing for the unit continues to expand upon post-modern jazz traditions in intriguing ways. For Canada Day IV, Eisenstadt states "I wanted to go deeper into the possibilities of solo, duo, trio and quartet spaces within the ensemble ... to keep shifting amounts of sonic information, weight and scope." To realize this plan, the leader is once again joined by the protean frontline of tenor saxophonist Matt Bauder and trumpeter Nate Wooley, with vibraphonist Chris Dingman expanding the role typically afforded by a pianist or other chordal instrumentalist.
The band stretches out considerably on its fourth album, deriving extended variations from malleable forms that were road tested during multiple tours and residencies over the previous year. Underpinned by tuneful melodies, Eisenstadt's memorable themes demonstrate great interpretive resilience, even during episodes of willful deconstruction, such as the heated collective climax of "What Can Be Set to the Side."
Supporting and embellishing the horn players' animated discourse with a dreamy cinematic ambience, Dingman's luminescent accents and evocative flourishes are among Canada Day's most distinctive features. Bauder and Wooley interpret the leader's sonorous motifs with mercurial invention; Bauder's robust tenor elicits a multiplicity of approaches, from breathy impressionism to multiphonic tonal distortionsbut Wooley commands the most attention. The trumpeter's uncanny ability to seamlessly transition from dulcet lyricism to coruscating abstraction in a single phrase provides the band with its most fascinatingly unpredictable element, especially on "Life's Hurtling Passage Onward," which spotlights his singular artistry at its most exposed.
Eisenstadt is a magnanimous but engaging bandleader; he rarely solos, but offers persistent percussive commentary throughout the proceedings, providing rhythmic ballast to Niggenkemper's probing harmonic gambits. With their keen ability to transform notated material into adventurous but accessible variations, these five artists manage to balance convention with experimentation in a manner that remains palatable to mainstream sensibilities. Building on an already strong discography, Canada Day IV is far more exceptional than its unremarkable title suggests.
After Several Snowstorms; Sometimes It's Hard to Get Dressed in the Morning; Let's Say It Comes in Waves; Life's Hurtling Passage Onward; What Can Be Set to the Side; What's Equal to What; Melio Melo.
Nate Wooley: trumpet; Matt Bauder: tenor saxophone; Chris Dingman: vibraphone; Pascal Niggenkemper: bass; Harris Eisenstadt: drums, compositions.
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