The Destructive Element

Harris Eisenstadt

The Destructive Element

Clean Feed (2013)


Ellery Eskelin, Angelica Sanchez

"A down home ambiance that’s tough not to fall for. Highly Recommended."

-Dave Sumner, Emusic


Summer 2013 NYC CD release concert June 20 at Cornelia Street Cafe then concerts in Poland and Italy. Tour page for details.


From the press release:

Harris Eisenstadt presents The Destructive Element, by September Trio, with Angelica Sanchez and Ellery Eskelin. This is September Trio’s second release and Eisenstadt’s 14th recording as a leader. The band first performed at The Stone in 2010 and released their first album in 2011. Critic Stuart Broomer wrote of their eponymous debut: “It’s unlikely that there’s ever been a CD quite like this one,” in reference to a program of compositions by a drummer made up almost entirely of ballads. The Destructive Element features wide-open ballads and blues alongside longer-form pieces.

“The music for our first record just kind of spilled out of me,” Eisenstadt remembers. “This time, I knew we had the opportunity to play two sets most nights for ten days, so I wanted to bring a variety of pieces in. I love the way Ellery and Angie both have gruffness and lyricism in their playing. Those kinds of contrasting inclinations appeal to me.”

Eisenstadt wrote the album’s title track originally for voice and piano. Ellery Eskelin’s warm, robust tenor delivers the vocal melody as though declaiming the words themselves.  “I was stunned by Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim as an English major in college in the mid-late 1990s,” Eisenstadt recalls. “I had a particularly influential professor, John Mizner, who I took course after course with; ‘Introduction to Literature,’ a month-long intensive on Beckett, ‘Romantic Heroes and Anti-Heroes,’ ‘Literature of Existentialism,’ then an independent study on Conrad’s Lord Jim.”

Conrad’s contention that in order to live authentically humans must submit themselves to the sometimes joyous, sometimes painful act of amassing experiences struck a chord. “It’s one of the things I admire about Arnold Schoenberg as well. He wrote the music he heard, year after year, for a lifetime. He resolved to submit himself to the destructive element - writing music, finding ways to get it played, often in the face of great adversity, even when forced to flee Europe and start a new life in the US.”

“From Schoenberg Part One” and “…Part Two” borrow materials from Schoenberg’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. “There’s a sadness to the Concerto but also a hopefulness. Schoenberg had recently fled Europe and had just been hired at UCLA. He’d left everything behind but also been given a new and vital opportunity.” We can hear the push and pull of somber and optimistic turns the two pieces take, the insistent short saxophone/piano unison bursts behind a kaleidosopic drum solo, the grounded-in-the-bass, soaring-in-the altissimo register counterpoint between Sanchez and Eskelin.

On “Additives,” the trio race through longer and longer rhythmic unisons on their way to open pastures and back. Sanchez’s left hand announces the stately opening of “Ordinary Weirdness,” then Eskelin’s entrance sends us through a constantly shifting backdrop of sustained melodies and shifting piano accompaniment.

Eisenstadt composed “Here are the Samurai” years ago, after seeing Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. “There was this scene when the samurai walk into a village and all havoc is about to break loose. An old woman looks up from the laundry she’s washing and she has this resigned look on her face, like ‘oh boy, here we go.’ For some reason that translated line of dialogue stuck with me as I imagined the drums confronting these repeating, twisted melodic/rhythmic cells played in mostly unison by the saxophone and piano.”

Eisenstadt composed pieces like “Swimming, then Rained Out,” “Back and Forth” and “Cascadia” that trade on an almost Romantic Anti-Heroic approach to composition. “I didn’t just put ballads with simple forms in front of these guys and ask them to play pretty,” he explains. “I find deep satisfaction in composing paradoxically simple/complex themes; sometimes the harmony barely goes anywhere, sometimes we leave it altogether. And melodically, I love giving Ellery and Angie minimal but specific materials for them to craft personal statements from.”

September Trio has grown into a mature and evocative unit, capable of sounding massive at times, while at others hushed. They celebrate the recording’s release at Cornelia Street Café in New York June 20, 2013 then head to Europe later the next week. They will no doubt submit themselves to the destructive element of amassing experiences, of building nuanced and evocative performances, at times subdued, at others raucous, always authentic.