A Working Jazz Band Shows Off Its Polish In 'Canada Day IV'
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. Jazz drummer and composer Harris Eisenstadt is originally from Toronto but now lives in Brooklyn. Eight years ago, he put together a quintet called Canada Day. Four of the original members are still around for their fourth album. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says it shows the wisdom of sticking together.
(SOUNDBITE OF HARRIS EISENSTADT SONG, "AFTER SEVERAL SNOWSTORMS")
KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Drummer Harris Eisenstadt's long-running quintet whose new album "Canada Day IV" makes a case for working bands. Some great jazz records are made by one-shot combinations, taking their first crack at tricky material, but that doesn't always work. Sometimes you just hear the musicians struggling, like they're squinting at the sheet music. Harris Eisenstadt's compositions aren't so difficult, but they have a lot of sudden reversals and abrupt changes of mood that are quite effective if the players know all the turns in the road. His band can swing, but he may make you wait for it.
(SOUNDBITE OF HARRIS EISENSTADT SONG, "WHAT CAN BE SET TO THE SIDE")
WHITEHEAD: After Harris Eisenstadt wrote this music, the band played it for four nights in Brooklyn then on a short European tour months later and then on a few more gigs before hitting the studio. That gave the players some perspective on the ins and outs of the tunes with their little interludes and different ways to improvise like playing in counterpoint or in a running dialogue.
(SOUNDBITE OF HARRIS EISENSTADT SONG, "LET'S SAY IT COMES IN WAVES")
WHITEHEAD: In the eight years Canada Day has been together, its members have become much better known. Tenor saxophonist Matt Bauder tours with indie rockers Arcade Fire. Trumpeter Nate Wooley's recent records include a horn duo with Ken Vandermark and a trio with Evan Parker and Joe Morris. Vibraphonist Chris Dingman has a good, new record of his own out. The newbie is bassist Pascal Niggenkemper. Drummer Eisenstadt's tunes give everyone good melodies and beats to dig into, and there are scripted duo episodes for more contrast.
(SOUNDBITE OF HARRIS EISENSTADT SONG, "WHAT'S EQUAL TO WHAT")
WHITEHEAD: Nate Wooley on trumpet and Chris Dingman on vibes. Busy musicians like these play in or even lead multiple groups so they can go out on tour more often than any single band could. When occasional ensembles like Harris Eisenstadt's do reassemble, the players can pick up where they left off and build on what they've done already. After eight years, Canada Day is really rolling.
(SOUNDBITE OF HARRIS EISENSTADT SONG, "MELI MELO")
GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure and is the author of "Why Jazz?" He reviewed "Canada Day IV" by drummer Harris Eisenstadt's quintet on the Songlines label.
Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, I'll talk with Mary Karr, author of the memoirs "The Liar's Club," "Cherry" and "Lit." She's credited with helping to turn the memoir into a popular form. Her new book is about writing memoirs. We'll talk about writing truthfully about people you have been close to without betraying them - people like her parents, her ex-husband and the late writer David Foster Wallace. I hope you'll join us.
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