Songlines SGL 1589-2 (www.songlines.com)
Although he left Toronto more than a decade ago, Brooklyn-based drummer Harris Eisenstadt hasn’t abandoned his home town… or country. This thoroughly modern session is the second CD by one of his working bands, whose name came from its first gig on July 1. Complete with a cover painting – with canoe – reminiscent of the Northern Ontario summer camp the drummer attended, Eisenstadt’s eight originals are played by a quintet of top-flight New York jazzers, none of whom is Canadian, although bassist Elvind Opsvik is Norwegian.
Well engineered, “Canada Day II” balances on Opsvik’s upfront bass rhythm, as well as the never-obtrusive beats of the drummer. With Chris Dingman’s ringing vibraphone clanks recurrently moving from foreground to background, most of the swinging pieces are elaborated by Nate Wooley’s buzzing trumpet technique and Matt Bauder’s vamping tenor saxophone.
Both the trumpeter and bassist are showcased on To See/Tootsie as the bassist keeps up a steady pace and Wooley delves into slurry stutters, mouthpiece kisses and capillary cries. Subsequently, Bauder states the tuneful theme and Eisenstadt accompanies with off-side flams and rim shots. Cottage country cool rather than downtown hot, most of the pieces on “Canada Day II” are like that. With the horns or rhythm instruments often working in tandem, other solos stand out as well. Jagged flutter-tonguing from the saxophonist erupting from a foundation of vibe resonation from Dingman enlivens Now Longer, a bass vamp that became a suite. During the piece, Opsvik slithers all over the strings or walks authoritatively as the blurry unison horn work confirms the transformation.
Overall the expatriate Torontonian’s playing, arranging and composing is so accomplished that one doesn’t known whether to give it an “A” or an “Eh”.