Ancient but apt, the saying “you can take a boy out of the country, but can’t take the country out of the boy” is more accurate if the country is Canada and the “boys” are male and female musicians in the United States. No matter how busy they are, improvisers are always ready to play north of the border. Last month, for instance, Toronto-born, Brooklyn-based drummer Harris Eisenstadt played two Toronto shows in one day before continuing an American tour.
Harris Eisenstadt – Guewel (CF 123)
Being Canadian doesn’t mean cutting yourself from other interests as Eisenstadt demonstrates on Guewel (Clean Feed CF 123 CD. Named for the Wolof word for griots, the band – cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, trumpeter Nate Wooley, French hornist Mark Taylor and baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton – plays the drummer’s arrangements of West African pop music and ceremonial rhythms which he learned overseas. The tunes contain elements of southern dance tracks and brass band marches. Each horn man has the melodic smarts to meld with Eisenstadt’s multi-faceted drumming, producing catchy yet non-simplistic tunes. With his hunting horn sonorities, innate lyricism and pumping vamps, Taylor is a standout. The sympathetic arrangements stack horn parts atop one another in such a way that every solo becomes almost three-dimensional. Should a tune like Rice and Fish/Liti Liti begins mellow and impressionistic, then a drum beat signals a timbral shift with Taylor’s jujitsu tongue-fluttering matched with near Mariachi-styling from the other brass players. N’daga/Coonu Aduna transcends its marching band flavor as Sinton riffs harshly, accelerating to whoops and brays, while the meandering brass trill rococo detailing around him and Eisenstadt clatters, pops and ruffs.
RIDD Quartet – Fiction Avalanche (CF 121)
Davis is also part of the RIDD Quartet on Fiction Avalanche (Clean Feed CF 121 CD with CanCon provided by his spouse Kris Davis, who studied at the U. of T, and the Banff Centre. Outstanding on 10 group compositions, solos are weighed among Davis’ sensitive drumming, sweeping colors from distaff Davis, Reuben Radding’s tough, but restrained bass, and the kinetic runs of saxophonist Jon Irabagon. On Fiction Avalanche, the pianist percussively chords a counter melody that extends rasping bass slides and flattened reed vibrations. Monkey Catcher is a screaming blues expanded by Irabagon’s fortissimo split tones, yet tamed by Davis’ chord progression, key-clipping and flailing. Sky Circles is both atmospheric and lyrical. In unison the saxophonist’s buzzy trills and the pianist’s comping outline the theme. Segmented by winnowing squeals from Irabagon, the pianist moors the improvisation while advancing the theme chromatically. http://www.jazzword.com/review/126900
WHO TRIO – Less Is More (CF 135)
WHO stands for Wintsch (Michel, piano), Hemingway (Gerry, drums and percussion) and Oester (Bänz, bass). Active for over ten years under this embodiment, these artists are as distant from an ordinarily stale jazz trio as an exhausted reviewer could wish for. For starters, we find no surplus of swing in Less Is More, which makes me extremely intrigued. There’s much else to explore, though, and the musicians are not shy in attempting different routes, all leading to a single result: the expression of simple rhythmic and melodic concepts through a superior level of restrained interplay.
Either walking across intense abstraction (the impressive opening track “Inside The Glade” is, purely and simply, a masterpiece of concerned waiting and unsettled thoughts) or examining the details of metrical interlocking almost to the point of ritualism (“The Pump”, “The Eastern Corner”), WHO always manage to look unique even by maintaining the instrumental gradations virtually untouched. “Wedding Suite” may appear as a straightforward song yet it is full of dissonance – of the digestible kind – especially remarked by the ever-interesting, outside-the-canon figurations played by Wintsch, whose style is reserved and intelligently comprehensible at once, altered melodies and harmonic cleverness bathed in inspired suggestion. Banz sounds prosperous or emaciated depending on the context, the focus remaining on the sensible aspects of structural stability. Hemingway offers a great proof of sensitive drumming throughout, the subtlety of his percussive interventions during the most rarefied sections a lesson of self-discipline that many bangers should learn.
Don’t be fooled into thinking about ECM or similar comparisons: despite a graceful confidence and the total mastery of the tools at their disposal, these men’s music is a refined blend of sensitiveness and, at times, visionary drive that does not need the support of a church’s reverberation to affirm its durability in the listener’s memory.