Canada Day IISGL 1589-2
“A melting pot of all kinds of rhythms, harmonies and vamps….[Eisenstadt] takes a fixer’s approach to music making, looking for ways to fit the pieces together…he often seems intent on extracting consonance from dissonance or forging ungainliness into grace….The band gave it a sense of proportion and finesse….”
–Nate Chinen, New York Times
This is the second release by Eisenstadt’s stable working quintet Canada Day, which was given its name by this ex-Torontonian for playing its first gig on Canada Day 2007. Harris has been based in NY for a number of years, and before that studied for his MFA in African American Improvisational Music at CalArts, where he also studied Ghanaian drumming and dance, following up with drum studies in Gambia and Senegal. His drumset teachers include Barry Altschul and Gerry Hemingway, and if this is a drummer’s record perhaps it’s the buoyant, dancing quality of the rhythms that really signals it – how the bass and drums interact with each other and with the vibes and front line from tune to tune, the individual voices pulling against each other to cohere all the more.
If the band is known for the way it blends “a mid-60s Blue Note vibe with elastic post-rock grooves and subtle West African influences” (Troy Collins, AAJ), Harris is quick to point out that it also explores areas of improvisation that are outside of jazz, such as Nate Wooley’s dense, active non-pitched textures on trumpet. “There’s something that the different strains of [new and free] jazz from the 60s share: a sense of adventure. All those musics are being renewed and updated today in endless different ways – amazing really, considering the culture wars of the 80s and 90s. I think Chinen says it well: I do take a fixer’s approach to music making. I’m not a breaker. I’m interested in freedom and structure and different ways they can co-exist. As for ungainliness and grace, I find it exciting when an artist negotiates an ungainly task gracefully. I think that definition fits better for me than the opposite (someone who forges gainliness into disgrace, I guess)….I compose for the band members – their personalities come out in the arrangements – but no matter how detailed my scores are, the strength and vibrancy of the music comes from the band finding its collective voice through rehearsals and performances.”
Half of the songs were composed around the time of Harris’s son Owen’s birth: “My wife had just given birth and I was kind of floating along in a tired and sentimental way. I found myself writing simple songs…sketching straightforward harmonies on the piano or singing melodies in my head and then putting changes to them, in stark contrast to the way I’d formulated ‘To Eh,’ ‘To Be’ and ‘To See/Tootie,’ which were written before Owen was born.” The range of the material and its melodic and harmonic interest, the way the band rises to the challenges of the arrangements, and Harris’s fleet, substantial drumming make for a very satisfying listen.
“Canada Day has been Eisenstadt’s primary vehicle for integrating his divergent interests since 2007, often yielding a rich fusion of inside and outside concepts that remain palatable to mainstream sensibilities. A masterful tunesmith with a keen ear for intriguing compositional gambits, Eisenstadt infuses his writing for the group with a strong melodic undercurrent, relying on his bandmates to expand beyond notated material into vanguard territory, balancing conventional song-craft with unfettered abstraction.” — Troy Collins, Point of Departure
“…optimistic, extroverted…This isn’t threatening, noisy music, by any means; it pulsates even during slow tempos. It is clear that drummer Eisenstadt is the leader, as the kinds of patterns and dynamics he comes up with are refracted throughout the band. This is exciting, particularly with vibes player Chris Dingman adding melody to the percussive effects. This group’s second outing reminds of the similarly drummer-led, vibes-rich Claudia Quintet, but Canada Day isn’t as relentlessly precise. Slower, bassier and more spacious tracks like ‘Now Longer’ impress most, with Matt Bauder’s jigsaw-like sax solo bringing everything together…Although in many ways (i.e., personnel, home base) this album is pure NYC, this is a highlight of export, eh?-jazz this year.” – David Dacks, Exclaim!