Tag Archives: mark taylor

Jazzword review by Ken Waxman

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.

CF 123Harris 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.

CF 121RIDD 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

Time Out Lisbon review by Jose Carlos Fernandes

cf-1232Harris Eisenstadt – Guewel (CF 123)
Houve incontáveis jazzmen, sobretudo negros e sobretudo durante a explosão do free, a proclamar orgulhosamente as raízes africanas do jazz, mas poucos se deram ao trabalho de passar da reivindicação e do manifesto programático ao amor genuíno e ao estudo aprofundado dessas raízes. O baterista Harris Eisenstadt é branco, nasceu em Toronto e vive em Brooklyn, mas o seu coração é senegalês. Ou pelo menos, bate em ritmos senegaleses, assimilados ao longo de aturados estudos na África Ocidental e em Nova Iorque com master drummers africanos – isto após ter tido no jazz professores do gabarito de Barry Altschul e Gerry Hemingway.
Neste disco o jazz conflui com os ritmos tradicionais senegaleses (Sabar) e a moderna música pop senegalesa (Mbalax), representada por temas da Orchestra Baobab ou Star Number One.
A formação – com corneta, trompete, trompa, sax barítono e bateria – é pouco habitual, senão mesmo inédita, e conta com dois grandes nomes do jazz moderno – Taylor Ho Bynum e Nate Wooley. O quinteto soa como uma pequena fanfarra cómica que transita (nem sempre com naturalidade, reconheça-se) entre uma algaraviada caótica e melodias expansivas de sabor africano, umas vezes de tom jubilatório, outras solene. “Dayourabine/Thiolena” começa em toada cartoonesca e trocista e prossegue numa marcha desalinhada e risível, “Kaolak/N’Wolof” e “Barambiye/Djarama” desdobram-se em mil cores. Eisenstadt sabe tirar partido do seu heterodoxo quinteto de forma a obter combinações tímbricas inauditas e, sem reclamar protagonismo em solos nem fazer estardalhaço, providencia um original fervilhar percussivo que vai empurrando a música em frente.
Um exemplo raro e feliz de um reencontro do jazz com os seus primos de África.


All About Jazz review by Vincenzo Roggero

cf-1231Harris Eisenstadt – Guewel (CF 123)

Un po’ di Art Ensemble of Chicago per l’africanità recuperata e fatta esplodere attraverso il free, un poco di World Saxophone Quartet per la sapienza nella armonizzazione dei fiati, un pizzico di Brotherhood of Breath per l’abilità nel dar risalto alla gioiosità melodica dei brani. Ma riassumere Guewel in questo modo sarebbe riduttivo e ingiusto nei confronti di Harris Eisenstadt, batterista e compositore di Toronto che riunisce in questo album alcune delle voci più interessanti della scena creativa nordamericana.
Perché l’impasto tra i tre ottoni e il sax baritono risulta davvero inconsueto e dà origine a tessiture che escono dai soliti canoni del genere. Perché Eisenstadt, nonostante la presenza di grandi solisti, mette in campo tutta la propria abilità di leader e cura gli incastri sonori e le preziosità timbriche piuttosto che le esibizioni muscolari e fini a se stesse. Perché le geometrie degli arrangiamenti sono essenziali, sobrie, con un’attenta valorizzazione di pause e silenzi che esalta la genuinità tribale delle composizioni.

Riflessione in musica su due distinti viaggi in Gambia e in Senegal con relativa immersione nella cultura e nelle tradizioni locali, Guewel è il tentativo riuscito da parte di Eisenstadt di fissare su pentagramma appunti di un viaggio verso le radici africane della musica improvvisata, interpretate e rielaborate da musicisti dalla mente aperta.

Jazzreview review by Glenn Astarita

cf-123Harris Eisenstadt – Guewel (CF 123)
Harris Eisenstadt is perhaps one of the more musical drummers within the big picture of modern jazz, free-jazz improvisation and what many cite as, new music. This album signifies the output of the artist’s second trip to West Africa, due to a Meet The Composers Global Connection grant. In the liners, he iterates that Wolof is the primary ethnic group and language of Senegal, and Sabar represents the traditional dance and drumming while serving as a foundation to denote life-cycle events. Eisenstadt asserts “Guewel,” is the Wolof word for griots, or hereditary musicians. Hence, the program spawns an uncannily coherent blend of the drummer’s highly rhythmic compositions, wondrously fused with West African cadences and progressive jazz arrangements. It’s a striking balance, enamored with the ensemble’s labyrinthian charts and odd-metered movements.

The drummer’s works cover a broad tract, where he intertwines off-kilter parade or ritual-like rhythms with group-based unison phrasings and asymmetrical patterns, largely topped-off with memorable melodies. And while Eisenstadt’s music is structured, he affords his band-mates plenty of room to expand and harmonize against a given theme. For example, French hornist Mark Taylor breaks out into a torrid improv jaunt during the opener, “N’daga/Coonu Aduna.”

Awash with highs and lows, a portion of these works are designed with maze-like horns parts amid free-form dialogues. Eisenstadt frames these West African-jazz pieces with tender spots, although he renders a multidimensional aura sans any chordal instrument or bass. The lack of keys or guitar pronounces a streamlined makeup, evidenced on “Rice and Fish/Liiti Liiti,” where the quintet executes an oscillating groove, nicely counterbalanced by Nate Wooley’s rather skittish muted trumpet lines.

Eisenstadt is at the pinnacle of his artistry here. In sum, he drives home the fact, that in the proper hands or minds, music is a border-less frontier. It’s a marvelous integration of stylistic components, equating to an irrefutably unique sum of the interwoven parts. (Essential…)

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci


The record’s title, pronounced “ghe-well”, means “griot” in the language of the largest ethnic group in Senegal, Wolof. Harris Eisenstadt devoted a considerable portion of his recent artistic research in the study of the Sabar, which fuses dance and drumming to celebrate important events of the local life, by going to Dakar in 2006 and taking lessons with Malick Faye, a master drummer and ensemble leader. The music of Guewel mixes traditional Wolof rhythms and transcriptions of Mbalax tunes, the latter a style of Senegalese pop that got international recognition in the 70s; the five pieces were all constructed in the same way, namely a Mbalax song inserted in customary Sabar metres. Eisenstadt, who arranged the entirety of the tracks, is accompanied by Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn), Nate Wooley (trumpet), Mark Taylor (French horn) and Josh Sinton (baritone sax). Of course there are copious doses of improvisational outbursts, whose character ranges from garrulous contrapuntal interweaving through grimace-eliciting dissonant lawlessness; yet the greatest feel of “euphoric hymn to existence”, which is typical of certain African manifestations, has to be found in the themes, which – despite being clearly developed upon well defined drum patterns – contain the germs of an energetic fillip which delivers the execution from the bounds of stiffness. This sense of collective happiness is perceivable throughout the record and represents its most significant asset, the relative digestibility of large segments of the material not implying any vituperation of the purity of Eisenstadt’s intents. True spiritual bonds symbolized by a quintet of enthusiast virtuosi who love directing their nosiness towards dangerous peripheries, ending their trips in glory every time. Contagious stuff, to say the least, and an admittedly difficult-to-learn lesson for those who talk about “interior growth” and “deep personal troubles” while living in disproportionate wealth.

Point of Departure review by Ed Hazell


Harris Eisenstadt – Guewel (CF 123)
Drummer Harris Eisenstadt makes no attempt at “authenticity” in his use of the Sengelese music that inspires his latest album, Guewel (the Wolof word for griots). As an North American percussionist, he doesn’t presume to recreate or imitate the music of West Africa. However, he’s made a serious study of the music, and the learning of a practitioner informs his incorporation of traditional Sabar rhythms and Senegalese mbalax pop music into his own. Eisenstadt distances himself from the traditional music right off the bat by assembling a quintet with unique instrumentation — trumpeters Nate Wooley and Taylor Ho Bynum, French horn player Mark Taylor, and baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton. It’s a combination of instruments not found in any tradition, African or Western. It’s not a New Orleans brass band; it’s not a classic brass quintet; it’s certainly not an mbalax dance band. But it is a group that’s capable of making a joyous shout that’s emotionally equivalent to New Orleans jazz and Afro-pop music, as well as the delicacy and balance of tone and texture heard in classical music.

Eisenstadt’s role in the music makes both these qualities possible. He’s a minimalist in that he doesn’t play a lot of his kit at once, his rhythms are stripped to their essentials, he doesn’t ornament a beat as much as define or distill it. The spaces in his rhythms let the subtleties of his touch stand out in high relief; they also nicely set off the nuances of the others in the band. Sometimes he uses Senegalese rhythms to propel the band in a conventional sense, but often they provide a mold that shapes the improvisers’ lines or they co-exist as one of several events unfolding in the music. Sometimes the Sabar rhythms disappear entirely as the music veers off on a tangent, sometimes they are implied as the players vary and transform them.

The mbalax melodies Eisenstadt has matched to the traditional rhythms undergo similar transformations. “N’daga/Coonu Aduna” loses its smooth African lilt to a spiny Steve Lacy-like swing. “Barambiye/Djarama” journeys from a disjointed Braxtonian klangfarbenmelodie to riffing ensemble to untethered free blowing. “Dayourabina/Thiolena” becomes just one element in a sound collage incorporating abstract sound, linear variation, and irrepressible, buoyant rhythm.

Trumpeters Wooley and Bynum are a playful pair, they clearly delight in one another’s company. A boyish glee underlies their duets on “N’daga/Coonu Aduna” and they can pivot instantly from rough, growling textures to clean, almost electronic sounds, or from plunger mute wah-wahs to flaming energy playing. Baritone saxophonist Sinton possesses similar range, cranking up a head of free jazz steam on “Barambiye/Djarama” and adding heft to riffs with his powerful low register. Mark Taylor’s French horn frequently provides a linear warmth and chesty mid-range voice that helps fill out the ensemble. He provides marvelous linear counterpoint during the group improvisation on “Kaolak/N’Wolof.” Because he never crowds a soloist, Eisenstadt is an exceptional duet partner and his exchanges with band members provide some of the music inspired moments on the album.

Although Eisenstadt never uses his West African inspirations in traditional ways, he has paid them the highest possible respect by using them in the most authentic way possible — to create music true to himself and his musical conception.