The eternal debate persists. Is Harris Eisenstadt primarily a drummer or a composer? He composes music for orchestra and chamber ensembles, yet he leads several jazz groups including Canada Day (a quintet and sometimes quartet or octet), the small large ensemble Recent Developments, and this quartet with trombonist Jeb Bishop, saxophonist Tony Malaby, and bassist Jason Roebke. Like the new breed of percussion leaders Tyshawn Sorey and John Hollenbeck, Eisenstadt eschews the hulking Art Blakey / Tony Williams / Elvin Jones approach to percussion. He prefers to assemble, as he does here with Old Growth Forest, strong musical voices and provide a skeletal frame for improvisers to build on.
As Eisenstadt is want to do with titles (Canada Day I, II, II, & IV and Golden State I & II), Old Growth Forest II follows Old Growth Forest (Clean Feed, 2016). The tune up commencement of "Needle/Seedlings" gives way to Malaby blurting and bleeding his tenor saxophone towards a melody. This clarity advances a playful gambol of music with Bishop's talking plunger opening a solo that finds Roebke and Eisenstadt busily scrambling behind. The reward here is the music's seeming lack of orchestration, which is a sleight of hand. Perceptive listeners understand the man behind the curtain (drum set) has set all of this in motion.
The success of this quartet is this quartet. Eisenstadt trusts the improvisational directions each player chooses here. Each direction serves the whole. The somewhat-blues of "Rustling" is fed by the organized clink clank rattle of drums and Roebke's pulse, which also feeds Bishop's trombone solo on "Pit And Mound." The remaing five tracks follow a similar model. Eisenstadt's compositions make possible an expanding conversation between players. Let's not call him a composer nor drummer, let's call him a jazz facilitator.
Needles/Seedlings; Rustling; Pit And Mound; Nurse Logs; Standing Snags; Biomass; Shaded Canopy; Song With
Jeb Bishop: trombone; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Jason Roebke: bass; Harris
Eisenstadt: drums, compositions.