harris eisenstadt

drums
composition

 


 

Jalolu

 

"The instrumentation of this group is highly unusual: drummer, saxophonist/clarinettist, three trumpeters, and no other instruments. No bass or piano in a quintet such that the leader, Harris Eisenstadt, does not even try to establish equilibrium between the brass and winds in any remotely traditional way. And does it ever work, in a superlative manner nonetheless! The title of the record, “Jalolu,” refers to the plural of “Jali,” which means “musician” in Mandinka. The first minutes of “Boogie one Lenjeno” suffice to convince the listener of the quality of the compositions and of the arrangements, the beauty of the solos, their perfect legibility and orchestral fabric. Just bringing these musicians together contributes to the success of the disc, but it is thewhole musical concept the leader explores that constitutes the deepest interest.

Even if the influence of Eisenstadt’s trip to Africa is not immediately discernible in his drumming on the record (who knew rumbles and cash register hammerings of old cymbals occurred in African percussion?), the two months that Eisenstadt stayed in Gambia under the tutelage of the griots Jamalang Camara and Mamady Danfa reveal a student of African music determined to conceive a way to orchestrate African musical concepts for jazz winds, brass, and percussion in an entirely personal way.

Fascinated by the "syncopated" melodies played by African horn and drum orchestras (recalling distantly, in their phrasing, boogie-woogie African-American music), Eisenstadt tried to transpose, in the framework of a jazz group, the rhythmic "hiccups" those groups produce, transforming the entire group into a unique percussion instrument that gives the impression of a big body broken in two, a gigantic instrument at the heart of which is loaded with layers upon layers of musical dialogue. Eisenstadt insists on wide-open spaces in which the musicians, as soloists and accompanists, can support each other, offer magnificent solos (particularly those of Taylor Ho Bynum and of Paul Smoker, in a way one the opposite of the other), and generally make music that reveals itself to be anything but dogmatic.
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