Harris Eisenstadt

Canada Day III
Songlines SGL 1596-2

Harris Eisenstadt

Canada Day Octet

482 Music 482-1080

Modest to a fault, despite Canadians’ contribution to Jazz since its beginnings, it took the 21st century and Brooklyn-based percussionist Harris Eisenstadt to trumpet his native land in his band name. Formed for a series of gigs beginning on July 1, Canada Day, the quintet has since become one of the Toronto-born drummer’s main touring vehicles. Finally now including another Canadian-in-the-U.S. – powerful and unfussy bassist Garth Stevenson – in the band, the high-quality CDs here demonstrate the flexibility of the core unit plus the percussionist’s compositional heft when writing for both the regular group and an expanded octet.

With an otherwise consistent line-up of some of New York’s most accomplished and flexible players – trumpeter Nate Wooley tenor saxophonist Matt Bauder and vibist Chris Dingman – the expanded Canada Day is joined by more Americans: veteran trombonist Ray Anderson, tubaist Dan Peck and alto saxophonist Jason Mears to make up the Canada Day Octet. Because of this wealth of talent, Eisenstadt can, for instance on the Octet program, use unique harmonies engendered from the juxtaposition of additional instrumental timbres, to expand the parameters of “The Ombudsman”, previously recorded by the quintet.

Presented as a four-part tour-de-force that takes up most of the Octet’s CD, “The Ombudsman” provides each soloist with enough space to bring new nuances to the enhanced creation. Tellingly, the lengthened showpiece isn’t padded with flashy work. Instead, the connective pieces skillfully soars with singular expressions that unfolds on top of a recurring and connective leitmotif involving bass and drum patterning, vibraphone pops plus riffing horns. A generation older than the other players, justly celebrated Anderson’s skills are apparent as early as “The Ombudsman 1”, where his extended capillary cries encompass guffaws and gutbucket slurs. Adding to the staccato excitement are Eisenstadt’s shuffles, drags, flams and rattles, polyphonic expansion from the horn section and a Dingman four-mallet excursion. On his own, the vibraphonist provides a sharp and spacey intro to “The Ombudsman 4”, which itself includes an unforeseen Latin tinge. At the same time Mears offers up finger vibratos and reed bites, while Bauer, not wanting to upset the horn harmonies, sticks to a descriptive obbligato. With the session narrative kept linear with balance among various groupings – percussion and vibes, for instance, or tuba and trombone – it’s Wooley whose playing is furthest out. As the others concentrate on mellow harmonies, on “The Ombudsman 3”, for example, he uses slurs, slides and unique fingering to great effect, deconstructing the line without ever letting it escape from his grasp.

No afterthought, Canada Day III stands on its own. Recorded after a North American tour by the band, the now-sutured ensemble brings a mature interpretation to eight Eisenstadt originals. Each man acquits himself admirably. An accomplished brass explorer, here Wooley mostly confines himself to muted asides or sputtering expansions. He is given his head on the cut-time tempo “Shuttle off this Mortal Coil” however, where his arrhythmic, twisted tongue flutters and rubato blats are paralleled by Bauer’s chromatic output. Appending waltz-time and march-time inferences, the tune also confirms the percussionist’s rhythmic sophistication as well as Dingman’s restrained and connective role.

Earlier on, whether a tune is oriented more towards contemporary swing or allows scope for sonic exploration, each soloist demonstrates his particular musical smarts without overstaying his welcome. Additionally, while Stevenson mostly confines himself to ensuring the time is measured with thumps and slaps, Eisenstadt shows off his command of Western and non-Western beats. “The Magician of Lublin” for instance maintains a sufficiently airy interface as his smacks and pops help centre the exposition as the theme is advanced by the harmonized lead instruments. Alternately he thickens the stop-time exposition on “A Whole New Amount of Interactivity” so that Wooly – smeared and muted – and Bauer – vibrating irregularly and inventively – have the proper back-up to amply express their ideas.

All and all both Canada Days provide high-class, up-to-date programs of improvised music that will be enjoyed by many. If other Canadian musicians could become more self-assertive and nationalist, the country’s musical contribution may be recognized for what it has provided to Jazz and improvised music.

—Ken Waxman.

Track Listing: III: 1. Slow and Steady 2. Settled 3. A Whole New Amount of Interactivity 4. The Magician of Lublin 5. Song for Sara 6. Nosey Parker 7. Shuttle off this Mortal Coil 8. King of the Kutiriba

Personnel: III: Nate Wooley (trumpet); Matt Bauder (tenor saxophone); Chris Dingman (vibraphone); Garth Stevenson (bass) and Harris Eisenstadt (drums)

Track Listing: Octet: 1. The Ombudsman 1 2. The Ombudsman 2 3. The Ombudsman 3 4. The Ombudsman 4 5. Ballad for 10.6.7

Personnel: Octet: Nate Wooley (trumpet); Ray Anderson (trombone); Dan Peck (tuba); Jason Mears (alto saxophone); Matt Bauder (tenor saxophone); Chris Dingman (vibraphone); Garth Stevenson (bass) and Harris Eisenstadt (drums)