Harris 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…)