Saturday, May 19, 2007

RIP Rod Poole and more

On an incredibly sad, tragic note, Rod Poole died last Sunday. Rod Poole's music is singularly beautiful. I had the good fortune to hear him several times in LA over the years - solo, with the Acoustic Guitar Trio, and with Chris Heenan I believe. The circumstances surrounding his death are terrible and senseless, and the new music community has lost a distinct musical personality.

On a more uplifting and life-affirming note, from last Friday May18 at noon until next Friday May25 at 9pm, the great Columbia University radio station WKCR is having a Sam Rivers Festival. All of Sam's discography including tons of never-before-heard music. Who else would do something like this? Talk about a much-deserved, long-underrecognized master getting some props. A week... wow wow! Its been a pleasure to tune in on-line when I wake up in the morning, come home in the afternoon, evening, or before going to sleep. And insightful interviews - I'm listening to Hal Galper being interviewed about Sam's Boston days and his impact on Tony Williams at the moment. Bravo WKCR.

I feel blessed to have recorded Vista with Sam and Adam Rudolph in LA in Adam's beautiful backyard studio in the fall of 2003. Sam's incredible musical spirit and good nature were a joy to be around. We talked about making a record the night before it happened. I picked him up the morning of at his hotel, and we spent the afternoon and early evening recording. It was one of the greatest days of my life.

Jason Mears Trio gigs with Nate Wooley this week at Goodbye Blue Monday (May 22) and Lucky Cat (May 24). Jason's a fantastic, totally individual saxophonist/composer who's just moved back to the US from Japan, where he lived for two years. Great to have him back, psyched to play with him!

Then we'll all play Nate's Large Ensemble gig later this week. The group is called Atack, Adorn, Decay and features a stellar cast of players, as part of the New Languages Festival. Should be great.

Just finished Let it Come Down by Paul Bowles. What a beautiful, despondent book. Bleak in a lot of ways but inspiring ultimately in Bowles' gorgeous prose. Slow going, but worthwhile. I should check out his music; I'm guessing the same slow, careful architecture at work.

Tearing through Absolute Friends, John Le Carre's 2004 bildungsroman novel. As in a previous post when I discussed his more recent The Mission Song, bravo to Le Carre for his recent work. I know some old guard aren't into it, but I am! I look forward to what comes next... may it be 2008 at the latest.

Been watching Prison Break, Lost, and 24. What can I say, they don't even deserve to be hyperlinked. Crack central! None hold a candle to HBO classics like Deadwood, The Wire, and Carnavale. But hey, gotta get the time on my practice pad in each day and this has been a good way to do it.

A couple kinda so-so films as well, The Good Shepherd and The Illusionist. The Good Shepherd is overlong and Matt Damon et al make for an extremely boring cast (apparently this is the point?), but the one saving grace was the cinematography (good work director De Niro, you hired a great cinematographer in Robert Richardson). The Illusionist was ok, but for recent turn-of-the-century magic films check out The Prestige. Less sappy, plus a film-making turn by David Bowie as Nikolai Tesla. Was glad to see my colleague in the blogosphere Hank Shteamer give props to this film a little ways back.

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

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A bunch of stuff. After all, its been 3 weeks since my last...

Its been almost a month since my last post. A whirlwind... seriously. Haven't had a moment to blog. Now's a good time to get back to it.

After lovely gigs with Steve Beresford et al (see previous post) I went to California for a week of various work.

Lovely Saris (duo with Sara Schoenbeck) concert at Trummerflora's Spring Reverb Festival in San Diego.

Wonderful, productive day at Bakersfield College teaching drumset lessons, music appreciation and ensemble classes for my good friend Kris Tiner. Showed videos from West Africa in the appreciation class and brought transcriptions of 70s mbalax and afromanding tunes for ensemble class.

Had a cracking CD release concert for The All Seeing Eye + Octets, out now on Poobah Records, in LA.

Then I flew to Portland Maine to start an 8-gig tour with The Bill Horvitz Band, with myself and ROVA mofo/great guy Steve Adams.

One of the stops on the tour was Toronto. Was great to play for family and friends. I realized I hadn't played in Toronto since 1999! Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, ran a nice feature article on me here.

That culminated in three days of rehearsals, performance and recording of the Bill Horvitz Expanded Band. We played program of music in tribute to Bill and Wayne's youngest brother Philip Horvitz who passed about two years ago. It was a deeply touching, sad and joyful concert. Bill wrote some beautiful music and put together an incredible band.

Last night Sara and I had the good fortune to go see/hear Bjork at the Apollo Theater. A friend of a friend was in the band, and so graciously put us on the list. Thank you so much Sylvia! What can I say... It was an astonishing live performance and we were 10 rows from the front of the Apollo Theater, stage right. Wow wow! They played their asses off. The touring band consists of two electronicists, drummer, keyboardist, and an all-Icelandic, all-lady brass tentet. Bjork rules! She brought out Min Xia Fen and Antony (from Antony and the Johnsons) each for a tune. Respek! And she played Hyperballad. I'm a sucker for Hyperballad.

Watched The Last King of Scotland recently. I don't know, Forest Whitaker is incredible, but I'm not down with the fictitious white co-lead. The implication being that Hollywood and North American/European(?) audiences need the vantage point of a white character to legitimize the film... to understand it... to go to the theater at all? Frankly I would like to have seen more screen time for Whitaker. I know he was all over each scene that he was in, but I wanted more. Oh well, congrads Forest. You definintely rocked it. I'm just not down with whoever greenlighted the script.

Been reading Paul Bowles' Let it Come Down. More as I get into it but a pleasure so far.

Been enjoying listening to Sade's beautiful record Lovers Rock. Think I might have mentioned it in a post from Dakar. I imported it from my friend Mohammed Sao who incidentally turned me on to tons of killin' Afromanding, Mbalax, Afro and more as we dug through his incredible vinyl collection one night a month and a half ago. Lovers Rock has been getting a lot of spins. The production is impeccable, the songwriting is fantastic, and her voice (like Bjork's) is so powerful.