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Harris Eisenstadt: Recent Developments

Karl Ackermann By

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Canadian native and Brooklyn resident Harris Eisenstadt has built a solid reputation as a composer, matching accolades for his eclectic expertise as a drummer. His passion as a student of the art has taken him to West Africa, where he has studied the music of the Wolof people and Cuba, where he has delved deeply into Afro-Cuban music. A leader/co-leader on more than two-dozen releases, beginning with Last Minute of Play in This Period (Questionable Records, 2001), Eisenstadt is also a member of the Convergence Quartet with Taylor Ho Bynum, Alexander Hawkins and Dominic Lash. Eisenstadt is well known for his Canada Day series, currently including I-IV, and regularly featuring saxophonist Matt Bauder, trumpeter Nate Wooley and Chris Dingman on vibraphone.

The nonet featured on Recent Developments again includes Wooley as well as Eisenstadt collaborators, bassist Eivind Opsvik from Canada Day II (Songlines, 2011), Dan Peck whose tuba was featured on Canada Day Octet (482 Music, 2012) , and trombonist Jeb Bishop from the Eisenstadt's trio album Tiebreaker (Not Two Records, 2008). Also on hand are bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck, saxophonist Anna Webber, banjo/guitarist Brandon Seabrook, who recently played on MOPDtK's Loafer's Hollow, and the superb cellist Hank Roberts.

The fourteen compositions—half are two-minutes or less—do not play to theme, but as Eisenstadt often works, they are written to the strengths of the ensemble. A non-sequential selection of pieces, titled "Part 1" through "Part 6" cover a range of styles and combinations of instruments. "Part 1" opens with what is essentially an intriguing Peck and Seabrook duo, later joined by Wooley. The trumpeter takes the otherwise bucolic piece to a frenetic close. "Part 2" follows a similar pattern but with Eisenstadt stepping in to disrupt the pastoral pace.

Five "Interlude" improvisations are positioned behind sections of the previously mentioned series. These are designated as two duo, two group and one quartet interval. The music is as varied as the formations with "Interlude (Group 1)" being free and discordant, "Interlude (Quartet)" having an off-kilter classicism about it and "Interlude (Duo 2)" not being a duo at all. These pieces are bookended with an "Introduction" and "Prologue" up front, and a closing "Epilogue" to conclude the album.

Recent Developments took its name from a tongue in cheek anecdote regarding "development" as scalable points on a chart versus the photographic definition of the word. The latter is sense that Eisenstadt is conveying here and indeed, the album plays out as vignettes that are more connected by atmosphere than by a running narrative. The similarly titled tracks could be randomized with minimal effect to the listening experience. This is a highly unusual and appealing collection and features some of Eisenstadt's most creative writing and a remarkable assembly of talented musicians.

Track Listing: Introduction; Prologue; Part 1; Interlude (Group 1); Part 2; Interlude (quartet); Part 3; Interlude (Duo 1); Part 4; Interlude (Group 2); Part 5; Interlude (Duo 2); Part 6; Epilogue.

Personnel: Jeb Bishop: trombone; Harris Eisenstadt: drums; Eivind Opsvik: bass; Dan Peck: tuba; Hank Roberts: cello; Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon; Brandon Seabrook: banjo; Anna Webber: flute; Nate Wooley: trumpet.

Title: Recent Developments | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings

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