Thursday, December 17, 2009

Harris Eisenstadt's Canada Day: Preparation and Spontaneity

With a couple of years of rehearsals and gigs under their belt, drummer Harris Eisenstadt's Canada Day shows in their new recording that persistence pays off if talent is not lacking. The sort of modern jazz produced on the Clean Feed release has a group cohesion that comes after hard work and time have ripened and matured the initial group idea and concept.

It is no accident or whim that Canada reminds me a little of Albert and Bishop's group Lucky 7s. Both have horns, vibes and rhythm as the starting components, both have strong compositions and arrangements and equally strong soloists, and both have a free-wheeling loosely propulsive vibes-and-rhythm team. This to me is an indication of a healthy trend in the modern jazz produced today.

The similarities between the two groups are not superficial; however the personalities of the players and the nature of the compositions and arrangements distinguish the two groups as unique entities, not surprisingly.

Canada Day showcases the strong writing of its leader, Harris Eisenstadt. There are composed sections intertwined with the work of players with well developed identities. Nate Wooley has trumpet polish and finesse yet can articulate both as emphatically and as colorfully as the need or the inner urge dictates. This album shows why he has rapidly become a characteristic presence on the New York scene. His tenor mate Matt Bauder may be lesser known, but he turns in some fine performances here, solidly compact, lucid improvisational statements. Then of course the vibes-bass-drums team of Chris Dingman, Eivind Opsvik (who impresses me), and Mr. Eisenstadt, repectively, have much to do with the identity of the group sound. They drive and harmonically construct the foundation for what transpires. And they do it in ways that are creative and loosely flowing. Harris has a terrific sense of what to play and what not to play. He can be busy without in any way disrupting to totality of what's going on at any moment.

This is a CD that keeps getting better with every listen. There is enough there that you hear some of the more subtle aspects only after long exposure. Now that's a trait only the very best music has, to my mind.

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