By Ken Waxman
Away from his patriotically named Canada Day band, Toronto-born, Brooklyn-based drummer Harris Eisenstadt convenes a quartet to sturdily deal with his compositions named for a Canadian national resource: trees. Trombonist Jeb Bishop, bassist Jason Roebke and tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby are likely conservationists, but all – especially the first two – play with enough lumberjack-like brawniness that it appears they could fell an entire old growth forest with slide or bow motions. Recorded the day after a concert, the four are fused like wood glue, with Roebke’s string chops setting the pace, Eisenstadt’s multi-directional rattles used like logger’s protective gear, nudging the others along the right path without injury, and Bishop’s and Malaby’s contrapuntal sound distribution as balanced as two workers must be on either side of a chainsaw.
Most markedly none of the eight tracks here lumber and some, such as “Cedar” and “Redwood” suggest that these tree species can move at a bouncy pace. As the trombone’s guttural blasts and the saxophone’s skeletal reed bites speed up, they furrow rhythmic grooves in the species’ trunks. Other tunes, such as “Spruce”, are most abstract with plunger trombone chaws and rattling reed chirps becoming musical woodpeckers or termites, battering or infesting tree trunks, gradually stripping away the bark to figuratively expose unforeseen sonic patterns. Throughout however Eisenstadt’s pacing is as solid and moored as the roots of any mature tree. He keeps each improvisation sufficiently grounded.
The CD reaches a climax with its penultimate track, “Big Basin” (another redwood). With tailgate trombone smears, screechy saxophone vibrations, woody thumps from the bass and rooted pacing from the drums stacked up like newly cut lumber, the four blend individual improvisational language into the sturdiness expected from long established wood lots.