Saturday, December 10, 2011

O Canada Day!

Had the great joy of seeing and hearing Canada Day, the quintet led by drummer-composer Harris Eisenstadt, at Firehouse 12 earlier tonight.  I have the pleasure of attending a number of concerts at the New Haven venue, listened to a slew of excellent musicians, and the 2 sets I heard from this group were among the most consistent and original that i can recall. (In my notebook, I renamed them "4 Beards and Matt Bauder" - with the addition of bassist Garth Stevenson, only the saxophonist is clean-shaven.  The leader, the bassist, trumpeter Nate Wooley and vibraphonist Chris Dingman all have beards - I digress.)

The 2 CDs the band has released, the first on Clean Feed and the second on Songlines, are quite good but, in person, the band really shines.  Eisenstadt arranges the pieces so that there are concise sections of thematic development, often with the main theme shared among the musicians on the front line.  There are phrases played behind many of the solos, sometimes tempos shift, voices drop out; the textures are rich and varied, the rhythms often thrilling and the band shows great sensitivity in the quieter moments.  Wooley's solos are often rough-edged yet he also has a softer side.  Bauder's notes in the higher ranges of his tenor saxophone had sweetness yet he, too, had fiery moments.  Dingman's vibes added color, sustained chords and phrases that ranged from clean, single-note runs to distorted textures.  Stevenson, a new name to me, played with great authority - his "bow" work was rich as well as rhythmical.  Through it all, Eisenstadt created wonderful torrents of percussion, egging on the band slamming on the 4/4, and keeping the tempos alive and lively (his brush was just as impressive.)  But, to my ears, the best part of Canada Day's music is that every song sounded fresh and original - I could not pick out any obvious influences. I'm sure the drummer might point some out but I just sat back and soaked it all in.

I recommend you go to and find out when the quintet is playing in a venue near you.  If you love music that will surprise you with its wit, intelligence, strength and rhythmic variety, go celebrate the work  and play Canada Day (and not just on July 1 - look it up.)

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