In Italian writer Antonio Tabucchi's acclaimed 1994 novel Pereira Maintains, a critical turning point comes during the central character's stay in the spa town of Parede in Portugal. It's not too much of an exaggeration to suggest a similar advance for drummer Harris Eisenstadt's Canada Day in a live date from the same locale. Usually a quintet (occasionally even an octet), the unit has provided an accomplished vehicle for Eisenstadt's small group compositional output. But stripped back to a foursome, the ensemble raises things up a notch further. Being leaner and meaner results in more space for trumpeter Nate Wooley and saxophonist Matt Bauder which they exploit to the full.
By way of evidence, Wooley offers a tour de force unaccompanied opening to "Sympathy Batters No Parsnips," starting very quietly with squeaks and fluttering burbles, before adding vocal shouts, puffing swooshes, whoops, and multiphonics before finishing on steam locomotive sonorities. The lovely melancholy processional of the main body of the piece almost represents an anticlimax afterwards. Of course a significant part of the success of such distinct features is down to the way in which Eisenstadt's always fascinating writing sets them up as integral parts of the chart, and the fact that he doesn't spotlight everyone on every track.
The pacy but mournful "Innuendo Is Nobody's Friend" finds Wooley stretching the parameters of what a trumpet solo might do while still keeping in touch with fragments of the melodic framework. For his part Bauder incorporates a range of styles into his expression from breathy Ben Websterisms to improv pops and blurts. He takes his chances on the sunny "Sometimes You Gotta Ask For What You Want," as his yapping line peaks in a brief falsetto, before picking up on figures from Pascal Niggenkemper's muscular bass to wind down. The ensuing horn duet, at first bouncy then dashing, demonstrates that Wooley and Bauder excel together as much as alone.
Coming in the middle of a European tour, it's no surprise that the band seems so well oiled. Transitions like those in "We All Ate What We Wanted To Eat, Part 3/She Made Old Bones" appear seamless, taking in a drum/tenor exchange, thrilling trumpet/saxophone interplay ending in a wheezy a capella twosome and a lyrical but adventurous bass outing. Typically Eisenstadt elegantly prompts and cajoles from behind the traps, but only allows himself to flex and embellish towards the close of the tremendous "We All Ate What We Wanted To Eat, Parts 2 & 5" over Niggenkemper's insistent bass vamp.
Taken as a whole, Eisenstadt presides over a noteworthy collective excellence, illuminated by flashes of individual brilliance.
Innuendo Is Nobody's Friend; Sometimes You Gotta Ask For What You Want; A Fine Kettle Of Fish; We All Ate What We Wanted To Eat, Parts 2 & 5; Sympathy Batters No Parsnips; We All Ate What We Wanted To Eat, Part 3/She Made Old Bones; We All Ate What We Wanted To Eat, Part 1.
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