Harris Eisenstadt | Woodblock Prints | No Business Records

Michael McGinnis : clarinet | Jason Mears : alto saxophone | Sara Schoenbeck : bassoon | Mark Taylor : french horn | Brian Drye : trombone * Jay Rozen : tuba | Jonathan Goldberger : electric guitar | Garth Stevenson : acoustic bass | Harris Eisenstadt : drums, compositions

Side A: 1. Hasui (for brass trio) 2’51” 2. The Floating World 11’05” 3. After Jeff Wall 7’15” Side B: 1. Hiroshige (for woodwind trio) 2’55” 2. Hokusai 10’49” 3. Andrew Hill 7’41”

All compositions by Harris Eisenstadt, Heresy Music (SOCAN) * Recorded by Jon Rosenberg at Systems Two, Brooklyn, January 17, 2010 * Mixed by Jon Rosenberg January/February 2010 * Mastered by Arunas Zujus at MAMAstudios * Design by Oskaras Anosovas * Producer – Jeremiah Cymerman * Executive producer – Danas Mikailionis * Co-producer – Valerij Anosov

Every Eisenstadt’s new album is a new journey to new musical spheres. This beautiful nonet album contemplates on Japanese woodbock print art. Deep and bright, the music captures you from the first note.

Much more on Harris Eisenstadt can be found by clicking here…

harris eisenstadt | woodblock prints | no business records

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!–Gapplegate Music Reviews


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3 thoughts on “Harris Eisenstadt | Woodblock Prints | No Business Records

  1. Canadian drummer/composer Harris Eisenstadt is making a compelling case for complete player status. His name on the CD sleeve does not necessarily predict the contents. Examples include his joyous marriage of jazz and West African rhythms on Jalolu (CIMP, 2004) and Gewel (Clean Feed, 2008), his compositions for large ensembles such as Ahisma Orchestra (Nine Winds, 2006), his adventurous small group writing with Canada Day (Clean Feed, 2009) and The Soul and Gone (482 Music, 2005), and not least his work as an improvisor in collectives such as The Zone with trombonist Paul Rutherford (Konnex, 2006). Now he has drawn some of those disparate elements together in a set which ranks among his very best.

    Woodblock Prints is a limited edition LP featuring Eisenstadt’s charts for a 9 member small orchestra. Each side exhibits a pleasing symmetry, beginning with a short horn trio, then a longer cut for the full ensemble, and finally a more convoluted mid-length piece. Melodies such as “Convergence” from Live In Oxford (FMR, 2007) by the Convergence Quartet, and “Seattle” from Starmelodics (Nuscope, 2008) with Mark Dresser and Achim Kaufmann demonstrate that Eisenstadt can pen a pretty tune, but even these pieces don’t prepare for the distilled beauty of the two side opening trios. “Hasui (for brass trio),” for Michael McGinnis’ clarinet, Jason Mears’ alto saxophone and Sara Schoenbeck’s bassoon, is lush American-tinged chamber music, which might be through composed, such is its perfection. “Hiroshige (for woodwind trio),” featuring Mark Taylor’s French horn, Brian Drye’s trombone and Jay Rozen’s tuba, is more of a stately procession, which shares some of the same melodic material.

    By contrast “The Floating World” and “Hokusai” are almost blowing vehicles. On the former Schoenbeck delivers one of the loveliest bassoon solos on record (admittedly it may not be a large field) culminating in growling dissonance, while Rozen’s tuba floats like a butterfly while buzzing like a bee, and McGinnis’ plummy-voiced clarinet muses happily. Taylor’s richly mellifluous French horn is featured heavily on the latter, alongside the skirling of the clarinet. Each track seems a continuation of the previous before taking a turn for the unexpected, so the tutti stirrings of “After Jeff Wall” pick up the finale of “The Floating World,” then morph into a repeating horn ostinato. Eisenstadt manufactures odd asymmetric rhythmic pockets over which Drye’s smoothly dexterous trombone pontificates. Another nimble ‘bone outing graces the closing “Andrew Hill,” alongside the pressing klezmer inflections of Mear’s alto, before climaxing in the most strident passage of the whole disc. Though he takes a back seat instrumentally, content to color and direct, Eisenstadt’s conception has produced a gem to treasure.

  2. Referencing the delicate artistic printing method, this nonet recording presented by Harris Eisenstadt on drums and compositions, Michael McGinnis on clarinet, Jason Mears on alto saxophone, Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon, Mark Taylor on french horn, Brian Drye on trombone, Jay Rozen on tuba, Jonathan Goldberger on electric guitar and Garth Stevenson on acoustic bass (with smaller groups frequently breaking out) is a model of artistic restraint. At times sounding like a post-modern version of the classic Miles Davis Birth of the Cool band, the music is very patient and thoughtful, and one could imagine the past masters of the art of woodblock printing nodding their heads in approval of the craft involved.

    “Hasui (for brass trio) opens the album with a muted call to arms, playing a beautiful and haunting melody. “The Floating World” has a spacious dreamlike appeal, with the leader’s percussion light and agile. Following a meditative beginning, “After Jeff Wall” builds to a fleet and exciting collective improvisation which builds a fascinating sound texture of clarinet and bassoon rubbing up against french horn and trombone. This performance really takes on an artistic bent sounding like a sound collage with all of the artists adding ideas toward a common goal. Riffs and melodies bubble up and then pass on with muted dignity and compassion.

    “Hiroshige (for woodwind trio)” returns to the meditative sound on the trio, developing a spare motif prepared with gentle forethought developing and emotional and yearning sound. Taylor’s french horn is the centerpiece of “Hokusai” developing a unique statement on an instrument rarely used in jazz, over subtle accompaniment, the music develops slowly, evolving an changing as the musicians develop the performance. The final track, “Andrew Hill” is dedicated to the great composer and pianist, beginning by developing a beautifully dignified and delicate melody. Mears gracefully develops an excellent solo against the backdrop of the horns.

    NoBusiness Records is based in Vlinius, Lithuania and they are becoming one of the most interesting labels on the current jazz scene, issuing progressive jazz from around the world and reissuing forgotten gems of improvisational music from the past. This thoughtful album is clearly a labor of love for all concerned, only 300 LP copies were produced, so if this appeals to you, don’t wait.

  3. Combining many styles and genres into one single blend that sounds fresh and new, like a great and cool cocktail, is relatively unique. Mixing stuff is easy, creating something of which the whole is more than the sum of its parts is a strong feat, but using those parts to create something entirely new is a major achievement. It’s the opposite of kitschy world fusion, often the last resort for lack of creativity.

    I know a few albums that transcend these genres. Now there is a new one to add to two albums that I listen to time and time again : they integrate composed jazz, played by a solid low-sounding horn section with tuba and electric guitar, solid percussion, world music and rock influences, friendly in atmosphere yet totally non-conformist. … and they have some of the most beautiful and compelling themes imagineable.

    I add the two older albums, The Kingdom Of Champa, and “Racines Du Ciel” for reference, but will not review them. Check them out. They’re great. Although different, they share the same warmth, drive and musical conflict. Full of paradoxes and synthesis. Tight arrangements ánd wild excursions, western ánd eastern music, today ánd the past, gravitas ánd light-footed, familiar ánd avant-garde.

    Drummer Harris Eisenstadt is an artist with many approaches to music. Two years ago he released the fantastic “Guewel” with two trumpets and free african rhythms, last year “Canada Day”, which received general acclaim, and now he’s back with music that really defies categorisation.

    First of all the line-up is quite unusual with Michael McGinnis on clarinet, Jason Mears on alto saxophone, Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon, Mark Taylor on french horn, Brian Drye on trombone, Jay Rozen on tuba, Jonathan Goldberger on electric guitar, Garth Stevenson on acoustic bass, and of course Harris Eisenstadt on drums.

    Second, the music is inspired by Japanese woodblock prints, as depicted on the cover, yet contrastingly, whereas the Japanese art is purposely created against empty space, the density and complexity of Eisenstadt’s arrangements are high, with no space for silence, but that is easily compensated by the overall warmth coming from the horn section.

    Third, the compositions are tight, with influences even from classical music in some parts, especially so when Schoenbeck’s bassoon comes to the foreground, playing in pure chromatic scales without dissonants, but it is equally big band jazz and rock music. The music can be sweet as Glenn Miller yet as raw and wild as free jazz, which it certainly isn’t.

    Fourth, Heisenstadt’s lets the band play his music. Although there are rhythmic subtleties galore, this is not a drummer’s album: it’s all about the music: gentle, compelling, expansive, inclusive, refined, but equally hard at moments, full of power and drive, with sound explorations and sonic expressivity that are only to be found in the most adventurous forms of jazz.

    Since the music cannot be described, ranging from solemn classically sounding chamber jazz full of counterpoint, to exuberant jazz, I will refrain from doing so.

    I can only say that Eisenstadt again shows what real creativity means. Surely the result of hard work and many, many try-outs before chiseling this music out of the hard block of musical tradition. It was in there all the time, only nobody saw it … until now.

    … and man, these horns sound so wonderful …

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