The New York City Jazz Record review by Stuart Broomer

Harris Eisenstadt – September Trio  (CF 229)
It’s unlikely that there’s ever been a CD quite like this one, a program of compositions all played at slow-tempos (whether blues, ballads or dirges) and led by a drummer. More surprising still, though, is how musically satisfying it is. Its quality begins with Harris Eisenstadt’s compositions, in which he has stuck to absolute fundamentals, emphasizing strongly melodic content, clear formal signals and dramatic repetition. Given his structural clarity, the performances often create complex musical states, with individual voices- Ellery Eskelin’s tenor sax, Angelica Sanchez’ piano, Eisenstadt’s drums – pulling in different directions. “September 1” is pure expressive blues in Eskelin’s hands, as soulful as something by Eddie “Lockjaw”Davis while Sanchez heightens that intensity by contrasting abstract chromatic figures on the piano. On the plaintive “September 5”, each soloist counters the bittersweet melody and group framework, Sanchez working toward rapid, flowering lines and Eskelin dancing outside with quick figurations against Sanchez’ ringing, sustained accompaniment and Eisenstadt’s almost ceremonial percussion. The performances here are at a remarkably high level, with Eskelin summoning up the whole history of the tenor saxophone in jazz, a richly vocal approach that can move from the gruffly expressive tones of one traditional stream to the airy sweetness of another. And in Sanchez Eisenstadt has chosen simply one of the most lyrical players currently working, a master of voicings, harmonic suggestion and rhythmic nuance. Like the best bop drummers, Eisenstadt uses these slow tempos to move rapidly around the kit, constantly animating his partners’ notes with apt accents and embellishments. The brooding power of “September 6”, first launched by a probing Eskelin cadenza, has tremendous cumulative power, testimony to Eisenstadt’s gifts as an orchestrator, whether composing or playing percussion. The trio never seems like a small group; rather, the music sounds like it has found its essential voices.

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