|In September 2003, US-based Canadian percussionist Harris Eisenstadt was visiting the UK. He made time to do a little trio playing with Messrs. Smith and Fell, and this CD documents the superb Klinker Club gig which resulted.
Harris Eisenstadt's flexibility and talent is a thing to behold, and his discography is getting to be a guided tour of the myriad streams creative improvised music flows in these days. Get him in a London dive with double bassist Simon H. Fell and you'll hear him put his own percussive twist on the sort of intricately detailed, hyperactive free improv pioneered by John Stevens' SME. At least that's what happened on September 2nd, 2003 in the company of trumpeter Ian Smith, who adds some smudges and slices to the proceedings. My first spin through the disc was a real pleasure, but when I gave it a go with headphones the intense detail in Fell's playing really opened up and dazzled my senses. Fell cycles through more unconventional techniques in one piece than most double bassists do in a full year, uncovering nooks and crannies of sound everywhere his hands and implements take him. Most remarkable, though, is the way he sounds careful, precise, and restrained even when he's playing with furious energy. Eisenstadt's playing here has the same rare virtue and the combination amounts to a dizzying percussion duet of sorts, with an incredible variety of timbres and attacks that makes the distinction between the two instruments insignificant. Even though an analytical listen easily reveals that they are playing in a very rapid, kinetic, ping-ponging style based around physicality and momentum, they both use such a wide palette of sounds in the brief confines of a single moment that the music never sounds cluttered; each sound has its own space in the mix where it feels like an isolated fragment. Eisenstadt seems to be using his entire drumkit and percussion array at all times with enough precision to beg favorable comparisons to Gerry Hemingway. As important as anything else, they also control their volumes at all times, freely ranging from tinkle to thwack, but tending towards a low-medium level that makes the music seem all the more focused. These remarks apply generally to three of the four tracks, but Voiceless Velar Stop is the disc's dramatic departure, a 13 minute piece of extremely low volume levels sustained till the final minutes. Smith skips his busy bluster and plays soft crackling un-trumpet-like textures that blend with Fell's faint threads of austere arco (recalling his work in IST with Wastell and Davies). Whereas a lot of percussionists would dig into some bowing and rubbing, Eisenstadt's response is refreshing because he's comfortable enough to retain the kinetic, pointillistic approach of the other pieces while carefully matching his volume to the other two, creating gentle contrasts between motion and stasis. DMG