Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Harris Eisenstadt's Remarkable "Woodblock Prints"

So here I am once again, talking about a CD I really like. What, do I like everything? No. Definitely not. The things I don't like don't usually find their way onto the postings, unless there is something exemplary or interesting about the music that illustrates some aspect of the contemporary scene. Otherwise, not.

Drummer-composer Harris Eisenstadt's new Woodblock Prints (nobusiness lp 18), is a vinyl release that showcases music for a nine-piece unit. Eisenstadt's compositions are the central focus. The unusual instrumentation (for jazz) gives the overall sound a distinct quality. There is a large group of winds (clarinet, alto sax, bassoon, French horn, trombone and tuba) plus electric guitar, contrabass and Eisenstadt on the drums. Think of it in some ways as a wind sextet with guitar and rhythm. I believe that would help you envision the musical results. The winds are treated often as a block of sound, with soloists emerging from that group from time to time. The guitar is another color and voice, and the rhythm section performs its function in a loosely attractive way.

The point, though, is that Harris puts together music that has an unmistakable burnish. It is full yet filled with various smaller combinations of instruments within the whole. Some of it has a chorale-like quality, there is well considered latitude for solo and group improvisations and each piece has an overall character to it.

The guitar and rhythm often convey a modern, slightly or definitely electric edge that contrasts nicely with the alternately old-world or modern concert-textured block of winds.

It is music that is utterly personal. And in this case that's a terrific thing because Harris Eisenstadt has an utterly personal musical mind. This is his best album yet. It is an indispensable addition to your "What's going on right now?" collection. He is getting up there with Henry Threadgill and Carla Bley with this one. Up there as somebody who follows his very musical nose in ways that lead to delightful results. Listen to this record!

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