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Harris Eisenstadt: Golden State II

Dan Bilawsky By

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Drummer Harris Eisenstadt's Golden State—the avant-chamber group that he formed while he was in residence at the California Institute of the Arts in 2012—is a meeting of minds and instincts. In its initial form, with bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck, bassist Mark Dresser, and flutist Nicole Mitchell, this ensemble created music that was smart and offbeat. Logic and surprise were both at play in the sounds that these four made together. They refused to draw out clear distinctions between pre-composed thought and improvised ideas, but they still managed to give a clear sense that both aspects were working hand-in-hand in the music.

Those same comments could easily be applied to the band's plainly-titled sophomore release, recorded live at the 2014 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival. But Mitchell's absence and the arrival of clarinetist Michael Moore obviously alter the chemistry of this group. Eisenstadt rightly hails Moore for the "spontaneous orchestration" that's prominent in his work here (and elsewhere). That aspect of Moore's artistry is apparent when observing his witty and sprightly excursions on "The Arrangement Of Unequal Things"—a great showing that stands in sharp contrast to Schoenbeck's more decorous statements preceding it—and his brush with jazz of the somewhat more conventional variety during "A Particularity With A Universal Resonance." He incorporates tonal oddities, pirouetting phrases, lyrical gestures, space, and oblique ideas into his compelling escapades. And most importantly, he fits perfectly into the types of sonic schemes that Eisenstadt, Schoenbeck, and Dresser have come to create over time.

While noteworthy compositional strategies and structural elements are at play, with mixed meter foundations on "The Arrangement Of Unequal Things," overlapping phrases of two different lengths during "Seven In Six," and a well-choreographed introduction on "Agency," the greatest thrills usually come with the moments of impulsivity and improvisation. Schoenbeck's gritty and graceful stand on "Agency," a tantrum-esque Eisenstadt solo that separates the two pieces during the continuously-running "Seven In Six/A Particularity With A Universal Resonance," and Dresser's opening statements on "A Kind Of Resigned Indignation" bear that out, as does the group interplay on the dicey "Gleaning." The forces of individualism and solidarity are both alive and well here.

Track Listing: The Arrangement of Unequal Things; Seven In Six/A Particularity with a Universal Resonance; A Kind of Resigned Indignation; Agency; Gleaning.

Personnel: Harris Eisenstadt: batteria; Sara Schoenbeck: fagotto; Michael Moore: clarinetto; Mark Dresser: contrabbasso.

Title: Golden State II | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings

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