Harris Eisenstadt September Trio: The Destructive Element (CF 276)
In a jazz setting, the traditional role for a bassist is to keep time, and in effect be the glue that holds a composition—and essentially the jazz unit—together. Maybe that is the reason is why drummer Harris Eisenstadt chose to construct his September Trio sans bassist. Aptly named, The Destructive Element follows the September Trio of Eisenstadt, pianist Angelica Sanchez and tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin’s eponymous Clean Feed Records debut from 2011.
It’s not that the music here is disorganized or chaotic. No, Eisenstadt is a skilled and gifted composer who can arrange music for small ensembles, like his quartet Golden State, the co-led Convergence Quartet, and his septet Canada Day (which expands to an octet). He has the facility to write music beyond jazz, like his two compositions “From Schoenberg, Part One” and “Part Two,” where he borrows lines from the composer’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. With Eskelin and Sanchez he is able to bespatter the sound, effectively working the composed pieces into the comforting sounds marked by wear and habitation. Eskelin’s tenor sound, like that of Archie Shepp
is seemingly always in a semiliquid state. What can come off as blasé is actually a design. Eskelin and Sanchez together bend and stretch Eisenstadt’s pieces, making the composed seem improvised. His tender ballad, “Back And Forth,” rotates on a simple theme, blossoming on his brushes and the skyward aim of Sanchez and Eskelin. “Ordinary Weirdness” opens with the saxophonist’s solo and a hypnotic cluster of piano notes, then proceeds to build itself into an unassuming mini-masterpiece.
Eisenstadt makes the difficult seem unpretentious. The start/stop finale of “Here Are the Samurai” makes much out of his mashing up varying rhythmic cells. Eskelin’s churlish sound rubs against Sanchez’ lyricism as Eisenstadt orchestrates the near chaos. The complex appears so simple and, with Sanchez and Eskelin, it is.