Sunday, May 13, 2007

The All Seeing Eye + Octets

First still photo I've figured out how to post, thanks to my friend, bansuri maestro and webmaster Dave Philipson.

I'm happy to announce the release of The All Seeing Eye + Octets on Poobah Records. The label is sending out promo copies this week so reviews should start rolling in this summer.

The producer Don Was turned me on to an amazing engineer Krish Sharma. Krish hooked up Paramount Studios for the recording and got a great sound. Thanks to them both and mostly to Poobah for putting the record out.

I'll include my portion of the liner notes for a little back story:

As it turns out, The All Seeing Eye + Octets is the last recording I made while living on the West Coast. It was a very fruitful period from 1999-2005/06. I lived in New York on and off in 2005, and moved for good fall 2006. I feel very fortunate to have had many wonderful musical opportunities while in Los Angeles. I’m proud that this recording features a broad cross-section of creative musicians there.

At first it was my intention to record the 5 songs from Wayne Shorter’s The All Seeing Eye and leave it at that. Seemed an ambitious enough undertaking. I’ve been inspired by that music for years, and wanted to pay tribute by re-imagining it with new forms and different instrumentation. In the process of preparing for rehearsals, performance, and recording, I realized that I had at my disposal an ensemble of vast instrumental range and skill. I decided to arrange two large ensemble pieces of mine, Without Roots and What We Were Told, for octet, and added a second trumpet and conductor. We went into Paramount Studio C, a wonderful old Hollywood live room full of wood and stone, and recorded The All Seeing Eye + Octets in one long, fulfilling day.

The intention is for the listener to approach this music as two separate programs. Listen to the 5 tracks that make up The All Seeing Eye. Take a break. Then listen to Without Roots and What We Were Told. I chose to steer clear of the saxophones and trombone from the original 1965 recording and instead decided on a woodwind trio (clarinet, bass clarinet, and bassoon). I wanted to blend the inner voices in the ensemble as much as possible, and to balance that much wood with just the right amount of metal: trumpet(s) and vibraphone. The balance made for an ideal mixture; sheer and lush at the same time. String bass and drumset provide the underpinning. The only clear strategy was to approach the music in less of a hard-swinging, quiet interludes, solo-after-solo sort of way and more as open-ended chamber music with grooves, which ends up mirroring the overall structure of my two octets.

Without Roots and What We Were Told were both written for large ensembles originally (21 and 15 musicians respectively). Arranging them for octet offered the chance to streamline the compositions, so by the time of the recording session the pieces were in fighting trim. Thanks to conductor Marc Lowenstein, who expertly paced the music such that written and improvised passages co-exist unhurried but on point. Each solo space follows its logical arc then backgrounds appear. Structured improvisations flow from one to the next organically. Tempi and dynamics swell and recede.

Thanks to the wonderful musicians involved, who brought their creativity, patience, and skill to the music. Special thanks to Chris Dingman, who helped with the Shorter arrangements immensely. The All Seeing Eye is about form, freedom, and balance. All these concepts should inform one’s life-view as much as one’s compositional palette.

- Harris Eisenstadt, Jersey City, 2007

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