Monday, May 9, 2011

Harris Eisenstadt...From Toronto To New York

Harris Eisenstadt (drums)
Canada Day II (Songlines Recordings; 2011)
Matt Bauder (sax)
Chris Dingman (vibes)
Nate Wooley (trumpet)
Eivind Opsvik (bass)

Harris Eisenstadt is one those rare and highly versatile drummers that utilizes diverse world rhythms and themes into cohesive crafty compositions, all of which amounts to some fantastic outings. Eisenstadt has recorded and performed in various groups including Convergence Quartet, Nate Wooley Quintet and a killer session with Jeb Bishop and Jason Roebke entitled Tiebreaker, among many others. One of Eisenstadt's most recent and exciting units is his own creation, Canada Day (yes named for the country's national holiday and Eisenstadt's home of origin).

Eisenstadt is a Canadian but now living in New York. He has a unique, diverse and complex style that has been born over the course of recent albums (The Soul And Gone, Guewel, and Woodblock Prints). With Canada Day, Eisenstadt explores different meters, patterns and counterpoints but still beams with crisp accessibility. Eisenstadt sites Miles Davis' classic 60s quintet as inspiration and Canada Day II, the groups second release, is a solid post bop offering that reflects those influences.

His seasoned bandmates, all of whom have successful groups of their own, bring rich ideas to Eisenstadt compositions. The majority of the material is based on Eisenstadt's life experiences in the New York area of Brooklyn. This creative zone flies freely throughout the music on Canada Day II.

"Cobble Hook" is a fast paced opener with a lot fun and rhythmic patterns laid down in the beginning by Eisenstadt. The band quickly joins in and Dingman and Opsvik put in stellar performances. Wooley and Bauder add some heavy elements to the mix turning this into a smokin' affair that feels more big band than small group.

On "Now Longer" Eisenstadt gives the always impressive Opsvik time to shine with some very intricate solo work. This midtempo number delivers with swathes of free form thought from Bauder and some very exploratory drumming from Eisenstadt. "Now Longer" closes with the group in ethereal form thanks to Dingman, Wooley and Bauder. "To Be" really sees the quintet in a Miles Davis mode. Rolling patterns and urgency through each member's delivery makes "To Be" a fruitful and exquisite piece.

"Judo With Tokyo Joe" closes Canada Day II on both a melodic and beautiful note. The resonance of the piece and Eisenstadt blues-like pacing allows Bauder and Wooley to open up while Opsvik and Dingman set intimacy around the borders. It's a swirling piece that is dedicated to New York's grand avant-garde master, John Zorn, whom Eisenstadt gained new inspiration from prior to the recording this session.

Harris Eisenstadt has always been a well regarded performer, but Canada Day II shows him becoming an even more important composer and leader. His ability to write material that accentuates the most creative elements of his bandmates is simply superb. Canada Day I and Canada Day II are both highly recommended releases from a versatile and dynamic artist.

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