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Harris Eisenstadt - Canada Day III

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Artist: Harris Eisenstadt

Album: Canada Day III

Label: Songlines

Review date: Aug. 7, 2012

There’s a fantastic moment at 2:45 into “Slow and Steady,” the opening track on Harris Eisenstadt’s newest Canada Day release. Everything stops except for Eisenstadt’s brushed cymbal ostinato and Chris Dingman’s vibes. Dingman has the vibes set to oscillate in perfect time with the cymbal strokes, creating a texture akin to water on ice that stands apart, a moment of reflection before the next ensemble passage. The time-stopping moment is indicative of the detail throughout the beautiful set of compositions on Canada Day III. It can be heard in Garth Stevenson’s shimmering harmonics at the outset of “The Magician of Lublin,” and in Eisenstadt’s delicate cymbal work, sticked this time, on “Song for Sara,” just to cite two examples.

To capture such a wealth of timbral detail, a spectacular recording is needed, and every register is presented with clarity. Of course, that’s only part of the equation, as the musicians in Canada Day all play with a certain transparency that does the compositions justice while making solos and ensemble passages a joy to hear. The receptive listener can melt into the slowly morphing lines and harmonies pervading “Nosey Parker,” each strand integrated into the texture while remaining somehow apart. Trumpeter Nate Wooley and reedsman Matt Bauder join forces to create a perfectly matched sound, similar to Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh in the late 1940s, often playing as one instrument as the rhythm section eases along in support. The winds are just as effective in passages with some heat, as in the slinky unisons on the intriguingly titled “Shuttle Off this Mortal Coil.”

The solos and ensembles are unpredictably integrated in a way that few groups achieve, closer to something from Andrew Hill’s final five or six years than to most of what we call jazz. There is plenty of dynamic contrast, though usually on the softer side of the spectrum. This enables color to be more easily heard, but it also heightens the impact of more extreme instances, such as Wooley’s wonderful growl about two minutes into “King of Kutiriba.” In fact, the whole solo might be described as a trumpet study of the human voice, each gesture impeccably timed and executed. It’s one of the finest moments on a disc chock full of such occurrences, an excellent third release for this ever-evolving aggregate.

By Marc Medwin

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