Harris Eisenstadt – Guewel (CF 123)
A sequel of sorts to Jalolu (2003), Harris Eisenstadt’s latest taps another side of his African musical experience and presents another pivotal project in the percussionist’s evolution.Guewel tweaks the quintet line-up of the earlier CIMP set, trading one of the trumpet chairs for Mark Taylor’s French horn. Taylor and baritone saxophonist Josh Stinton make for easy aural marks, but the inspired pairing of brass aces Nate Wooley and Taylor Ho Bynum is a bit more difficult to parse. Even with the decision to field distinct instruments, the duo’s more texture-oriented excursions can be a welcome challenge to untangle.
The streamlined program switches source locales from Gambia to Senegal with Eisenstadt’s detailed notes delineating both process and rationale. The drummer’s arranging goals are ambitious, fusing traditional regional rhythms with transcriptions of Senegalese pop music. A third element, collective improvisation, isn’t as easy to thread and the seams between sections are often audible, sometimes awkwardly so. These moments are relatively minor and the decisive energy of the ensemble and individual statements succeeds in shoring most of the leaks.
Deployed in twos, the source tunes borrow from the songbooks of Orchestra Baobob, Star Number One and others. Each set supplies melodic grist for the horns and ample room for loose-limbed grooves from the leader. Eisenstadt regularly divides the group up into smaller parcels, dialoguing closely with Taylor on “N’daga/Coonu Aduna” or scaling back his sticking after a stretch of staccato polyphony as Wooley and Bynum trade in steely growls on “Kaolak/N’Wolof.” “Dayourabine/Thiolena” builds from a call and response march into a gorgeous chamber colloquy of horns. Stinton muscles in on “Barambiye/Djarama,” shirking off measured phrasing for a statement stamped with raw-throated split tones and circular breathing as Eisenstadt deftly fractures the rhythm around him.
As fun and focused as the band is, a shout out seems due to engineer Reuben Radding, too. Better known as composer and improvising bassist, Radding’s capture of the sounds is according, giving all the instruments – especially the leader’s kit – clarity and brightness that is often immersive. Whether you’ve made earlier legs of Eisenstadt’s journey or not, this latest travelogue will bring you swiftly up to speed.
Angelica Sanchez – Life Between (CF 128)
Jazz listeners generally choose between the orderliness of a jazz ensemble with a piano, or the freedom that playing sans the chordal instrument allows a group. For pianist Angelica Sanchez, her presence muddles that distinction. On Life Between she preserves the order—not by chords, but by her compositions, arrangements and, maybe, presence.
After releasing two self-produced recordings with drummer Tom Rainey and her husband, the great tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby, she debuted to great acclaim on Mirror Me (Omnitone, 2003) which added bassist Michael Formanek. This session replaces Formanek with Drew Gress and adds French guitar legend Marc Ducret.
Certainly with that much firepower things are apt to tear apart quickly. These four sidemen are capable of releasing the improvisational equivalent of shock and awe. But, remarkably they don’t. And it is not because they are limited by the chordal policeman of Sanchez’s piano. Her instrument of choice here is the Wurlitzer, an electric piano favored by Herbie Hancock during the Miles Davis electric years and, more recently, Uri Caine in his own groups and as part of Dave Douglas’ ensembles. Its unique sound, almost meek as compared to a standard piano, acts more to sustain than as a traffic cop.
The tracks, all her compositions, can be noddingly memorable, like “514” and “Name Dreamer,” or emotionally packed as on “Federico.” When she prepares a piece that is open for a bit more improvisation such as “Black Helicopters,” her players release a very under controlled openness. Malaby’s saxophone simmers and Ducret pokes-and-prods through his bag of guitar effects. The result here is a refined and controlled music making, easy to digest even though the playing is quite sophisticated. Sanchez’s switch to acoustic piano playing here and on the short final piece “Corner Eye” is full of ringing bright notes. An excellent rejoinder to Malaby’s thunderous tenor, and the shock of Ducret.
This quintet of some of jazz’s finest improvisers allow Sanchez to realize her vision by tailoring their sound to this very special project.
Tetterapadequ – And The Missing R (CF 120)
This band’s curious name is a defective anagram of De Pater Quartet, referring to Muzikantencafé De Pater in The Hague, The Netherlands, a place which this band apparently likes a lot, and for which an “r” is missing, hence the title. There is nothing wrong with the music, though, quite on the contrary. The band consists of Belgian-Italian Daniele Martini on tenor sax, Belgian-Italian pianist Giovanni di Domenico, Portuguese bassist Gonçalo Almeida who resides in Rotterdam, and Portuguese drummer João Lobo. Whatever their origin, I must again congratulate Pedro Costa of Clean Feed for his unbelievable ear for good music, and for giving young musicians the chance to have their music released. The music of Tetterapadequ consists of 13 mostly short tracks of improvised music, mostly subdued, introverted and restrained, with the exception of the third track “Dopey”, which is a short drum solo. The four musicians create small creative aural environments, with scarce sounds, lots of empty space. Di Domenico’s piano usually sets the tone and the scene. Although some of the sounds come from extended techniques on the various instruments, the music is very accessible and intimate, between traditional jazz (there is even a short reference to Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade) and modern classical music, with the other musicians taking the overall sound to a higher stage, creating depth and perspectives that are new and fresh. They are not afraid to push things to the limit, as on the last track, when the first four minutes are nothing but silence, then the bass starts playing softly, with the piano strings being plucked gently, then the drum joins sparingly, and only after eight minutes can the sax be heard, hesitatingly, sensitively, over a one note piano rhythm, yet gaining in power, gaining momentum, hypnotically, majestically, ending in a scream/cough/laugh. Nice music, very creative and subtle.