Harris Eisenstadt September Trio – The Destructive Element (CF 276)
Brooklyn-based and Toronto-raised drummer Harris Eisenstadt has an extraordinarily wide range of ensembles he works in either as leader/principal or sideman/co-conspirator, from a nonet all the way down to this trio with pianist Angelica Sanchez and tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin. The group came together as a loose trio for a few gigs in September 2009 and since the formation and voices worked well together, the September Trio was quickly born. Now on their second disc for Clean Feed, The Destructive Element, a group identity on par with Eisenstadt’s other ensembles is clear. It’s fair to say that Eisenstadt is a listener and a shaper whose approach might be reminiscent of Paul Motian or Joe Morello as opposed to the unmitigated force of Art Blakey or Sunny Murray. While the nine pieces on The Destructive Element are all from Eisenstadt’s pen, one shouldn’t be chastised for assuming the primary voice might be Eskelin or Sanchez. While the instrumentation may recall trios running the gamut from Lester Young, Nat “King” Cole and Buddy Rich to Evan Parker, Alexander von Schlippenbach and Paul Lovens, the feel might be closer to Motian’s group with guitarist Bill Frisell and tenorman Joe Lovano.
The opener, “Swimming, then Rained Out” finds Sanchez darting and bluesy amid Eskelin’s torqued, pillowy and elemental phrases. “Additives” is a cyclical, minefield-like rondo that extends out into rugged near-free play, Sanchez’ gospelized, voluminous harmonies a fascinating contrast with the tenorman’s hard, brightly quizzical economy. Eskelin remains a leanly complex player for whom visions of “No Tonic Pres” or a young Jan Garbarek don’t seem too far off, and he seems especially formidable in trios where he’s the only horn, set against percussion and keyboards (cf. his work with Andrea Parkins or, more recently, organist Gary Versace). Eisenstadt has chosen his mates well, for even the lush and nearly cloying pop-romantic bedrock of “Back and Forth” is taken with stepped knottiness. The title piece is a balladic plateau, the leader’s brushwork nearly disappearing behind plush garlands of tenor and piano, and contrasted heavily against the following “Cascadia,” which teases out Sanchez’ reflections on Monk and early Cecil Taylor in an unaccompanied opening volley before the trio shifts into a tough, expansive waltz. Eisenstadt positions himself as a composer and improviser of reflection and craft, and while there might be a bleeding together of textures on The Destructive Element, the upshot is a set of fine and energetically nuanced trio music gently prodded by crisp, dry movement.