Harris Eisenstadt: We Are Not Obstinate Islands / The Zone

Jeff Stockton By

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The Diplomats
We Are Not Obstinate Islands
Clean Feed

Paul Rutherford/Torsten Muller/Harris Eisenstadt
The Zone

We Are Not Obstinate Islands is a live recording of a freely improvised concert in Rochester performed by drummer Harris Eisenstadt, Rob Brown on alto and the ubiquitous Steve Swell on trombone. The five tracks are neither overlong nor too far out and while the musicians are clearly listening to each other and keying off each other's cues, no single player grabs more than his fair share of the spotlight. Brown's playing is coherent and strong, his tone on alto full of buzz and hum. Swell's trombone bubbles, sputters and wheezes like an agitated emphysema patient. Eisenstadt directs the conversation without much attention to the strictures of time, but manages to move the improvisations forward with carefully placed beats, rimshots and cymbal shimmers. The Diplomats make their case concisely, with few unnecessary embellishments.

While the Diplomats walk the middle ground between cerebral minimalism and maximum free jazz, Eisenstadt and his partners on The Zone are firmly in the category of the former. Recorded in front of an audience in Santa Fe, veteran trombonist Paul Rutherford keeps to soft bursts of notes, bassist Torsten Müller quietly bows and lightly bounces on and off his strings and Eisenstadt spends a lot of time gently tapping on the wooden edge of his drum. Barely perceptible squeaks contribute to the atmosphere, as if someone were scratching nylon with his fingernails. Chicago trombonist Jeb Bishop's liner notes express his admiration for Rutherford and a special appreciation for what's going on among the musicians and builds a convincing argument that you should listen again. Attention paid will be repaid. But this Zone is melody- and groove-free.

Tracks and Personnel

We Are Not Obstinate Islands

Tracks: Down to the Roots; Past the Roots; The Unsure of Our Times; The Unsure of Our Answers; Buoyed in Great Days

Personnel: Harris Eisenstadt: drums; Rob Brown: alto saxophone; Steve Swell: trombone

The Zone

Tracks: Booming Grounds; The Zone; Laughing Lizard; Schoenberg Swung Am Hardsten

Personnel: Paul Rutherford: trombone; Torsten Muller: bass; Harris Eisenstadt: drums


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