Harris Eisenstadt in his Canada Day series as well as on other recent releases has been creating consistently some of the most interesting jazz composition-ensemble music today. It is interesting because it is not what you'd expect vis-a-vis what is generally going on out there right now.
And so is the case on his new Canada Octet (482 Music 482-1080). It's a slightly larger group (an octet obviously) of Harris on drums, Nate Wooley, trumpet, Ray Anderson, trombone, Dan Peck, tuba, Jason Mears, alto, Matt Bauder, tenor, Chris Dingman, vibes, and Garth Stevenson, contrabass. All tend to be first-rate improvisers as you will no doubt know by reading over the personnel. And they are given space to do so within the structure of the two pieces ("The Ombudsman 1-4," "Ballad for 10.4.7").
Harris writes music that sometimes flows chorale-like yet splinters into sections marked by contrasting velocities and countertextures--long notes versus rapid free drumming and a grainy series of low notes on tuba, for example, all of which transforms into a section featuring rapid free horns that enter and exit unexpectedly and repeatedly.
It is music that grabs you yet remains for the most part quite subtle. It has freedom yet remains organically true to a compositional thrust.
Eisenstadt uses the color combinations of the instruments at hand in brilliant ways and (in a way like Duke) lets the personalities of the improvisers provide a critical dimension to the outcome of each piece.
There is much more one could say, but since there is another new one by Harris that I will be covering in a few days, I will say more then.
Canada Day Octet is Harris Eisenstadt's music in full-flower. It is music of consistency, brilliance, and originality. And the band is something else too.