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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Harris Eisenstadt - Golden State II (Songlines, 2015) ***½

By Stefan Wood

I've always been attracted to chamber jazz. A cross pollination of classical and jazz, it is a quietly intense and focused sub genre that has led to new avenues of expression and improvisation. Harris Eisenstadt's Golden State Quartet -- Harris Eisenstadt (drums), Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon), Mark Dresser (bass), and Michael Moore (clarinet) -- adds to the music influences ranging from European avant jazz (ICP Orchestra), to Yusef Lateef, Eric Dolphy and Wadada Leo Smith. "Golden State II" is the second album by the quartet, a live concert recorded at the 2014 Vancouver Jazz Festival.

The concert has a quiet, highly concentrated intensity filled with dynamic interplay and creative improvisations -- a testament to the band's playing, which has the audience hushed, for the most part. Marc Dresser is the binding agent; funky bass rhythms that propel Schoenbeck and Moore outwards as in the opening track "The Arrangement of Unequal Things," cello like in the opening solo to the track "A Kind of Resigned Indignation," or a repetitive bluesy stride in the stand out track "Agency." 

Michael Moore is excellent as well, referencing Dolphy with his organic play on the clarinet, stretching the sound like taffy, flirtatious and whimsical. Schoenbeck's bassoon comes across like a baritone saxophone, less deep but buttery smooth, which complements the higher register of the clarinet. She shines on the track "Agency," where her long solo is slow burning and rich, followed by Moore, then both engage in a soft exchange, one staying low, the other high, in a whirling, exchange that is klemzer like. The final track, "Gleaning," concludes the set with latin influenced percussion and bass, with Moore and Schoenbeck exchanging notes on top. Some of the improvisations feel a bit aimless, but the musicianship is excellent, noted by an appreciative audience at the conclusion. Recommended.