Drummer Harris Eisenstadt has proven his salt as an instrumentalist, but his compositional chops as evidenced by the scores he has turned out are just as impressive. Here we get a solid session of wonderfully written music that displays an effective balance between composer and improvising instrumentalist's creative input. There is plenty of both, starting with the stroke of simple genius in selecting the instrumentation, which includes a banjo and a bassoon, along with the perhaps less surprising flute, trumpet, trombone, tuba, cello, bass and drums/percussion.
Apparently, according to the press blurb, Eisenstadt sketched out the material for this 14-part suite during a nine-hour airplane ride. The core of the music appears in six substantial chunks, preceded by an Introduction, a Prologue, interspersed with five interludes and ending with an Epilogue. The meat of the music happens in the six "Parts", at least compositionally speaking, but equally interesting music happens in the short interludes in which, it seems, the instrumentalists are given some rope and manage moments of magic that are coherent with the sound-conception of the entire suite.
At the heart of the matter is the instrumentation and the timbral qualities it presents, from the playful cavorting of flute and bassoon in the Introduction, the tuba and bass dual statement of the Prologue, and in and out of the main sections, all involving the full group and its varied colors. The opening main section has the banjo sounding somewhat like a pipa, but the writing for brass is especially noteworthy, as the stately musical thoughts are presented. Each part has a fair amount of momentum and fibre, where the large ensemble's sound as a unit is aptly articulated.
The most metrically fascinating section is "Part 3" — which also contains some nice playing from trombonist Jeb Bishop, and "Part 4" where the Dan Peck's tuba is king, setting out a firm and funky ostinato over which floats the lyrical bird-like flute of Anna Webber. The Interlude that makes up track 10 has some nice deconstructive playing, where the group breaks things down to some gritty and flighty sounds. Also noteworthy are the very cool split tones on the tuba at the end of "Part 2," Nate Wooley's muted trumpet work, the rich bassoon sound of Sara Schoenbeck, Brandon Seabrook's playful banjo, Hank Roberts silky cello and Eivind Opsvik's rich bass.
All told, this is a suite of engaging thematic motifs, imaginatively elaborated counterpoint and harmony, and creative rhythmic play, that adds up to an impressive display of the compositional imagination of Mr. Eisenstadt and the skill of the musicians he has chosen to accompany him.
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