Mar 11 2015
When you press play on a Harris Eisenstadt recording, you’re typically going to be face-to-face with a mercurial personality. The music bubbles with a volatility that hints at the possibility of getting smacked in mouth. The percussive element is delivered abruptly and has an acerbic edge to it. Melodies aren’t so much conversation openers as demands for your wallet. These qualities in and of themselves tend to cultivate intrigue and curiosity more than defensiveness and fear. Add to the mix Eisenstadt’s sneaky way of slipping in melodic handshakes and jaw-dropping displays of soulfulness, and it’s why it’s easy to eagerly return to his music in perpetuity, no matter how brusquely the music may treat the ear.
On Golden State II, Eisenstadt stays true to formula. However, what distinguishes this recording as something above and beyond past efforts is the impressive fluidity his quartet displays in shifting between the different states of mind. Yes, the aggressive dissonance doesn’t waste time in stepping up with a shout and a clenched fist. But where on previous recordings a jarring change of mood would signal a new direction, on the newest, his quartet displays a remarkable ease in transitioning seamlessly to extended melodic glides and jaunty strolls through the park humming the blues. It’s not that Eisenstadt has blunted any of his edginess; instead, he’s just made it far more difficult to discern where one passage ends and the next begins. The calculated subtlety of these startling transformations is both thrilling and oddly comforting… as if maybe the music isn’t really all that mercurial after all.
Recorded live at the 2014 Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Eisenstadt’s (slighty-reformed) Golden State Quartet takes the relentless electricity of a live performance and bottles it up nicely for the recorded medium. And just as importantly, Eisenstadt continues to prove that his music rewards patience and those that rise to the challenge.
Your album personnel: Harris Eisenstadt (drums), Michael Moore (clarinet), Mark Dresser (bass) and Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon).
Released on Songlines Recordings.
Jazz from the Toronto scene.