“Canada Day has been Eisenstadt’s primary vehicle for integrating his divergent interests since 2007, often yielding a rich fusion of inside and outside concepts that remain palatable to mainstream sensibilities. A masterful tunesmith with a keen ear for intriguing compositional gambits, Eisenstadt infuses his writing for the group with a strong melodic undercurrent, relying on his bandmates to expand beyond notated material into vanguard territory, balancing conventional song-craft with unfettered abstraction.” - Troy Collins, reviewing Canada Day II on Point of Departure
Canada Day, a band which now has two Canadian members (Garth Stevenson and Harris), returns with another record of great tunes and spirited playing, paired with the first release by Harris’ Canada Day Octet on 482 Music. Incidentally, Harris is also the drummer on Songlines’ other release this month, clarinetist François Houle’s new international band (Francois Houle 5 + 1, Genera). Taken together, these three records show a composer, drummer and bandleader who really loves music in all its diversity and infuses that energy and a truly distinctive voice into everything he does.
And his band members respond in kind. Check out for example Nate Wooley’s remarkable Harmon mute solo on “The Magician of Lublin,” where he unexpectedly inserts lone open notes for contrast and punctuation. Or Matt Bauder’s solo on “Nosey Parker,” which seems to assay several vintage sax styles with both real reverence and a sly sort of parodistic humor. Throughout the record there are many instances of subtle surprise, crafty interplay and underlying complexities of tone that make for a richer listening experience. No doubt this finely-tuned level of engagement is partly the result of the band living with these pieces for a year and coming directly off the road to record. Says Harris: “I’m going for something visceral for sure, and not overly solemn or serious.... I do think that the fluidity of solo approaches comes from playing the pieces enough to not have to think about what might work. Most importantly, I want the musicians to be able to run with their instincts and be themselves no matter what.”
The record’s overall cohesiveness, its integrating jazz drive, is certainly a result of Harris’ composing and approach to band-leading: “At the beginning of a book when we’re learning the songs, I try not to fix too much until we hear how different parts of pieces fit and sound together. We sort of build road maps through trial and error. I of course ask for people’s input and welcome it, as they’re each composer/bandleaders with strong ideas. Having said that I do generally fix things myself. I think it helps when a bandleader is decisive about road maps, solo orders, set lists, assigning cues, etc.”
Some thoughts on how he fits into the jazz drumming tradition: “It has been a fantastic time to be part of the jazz drumming tradition, these almost-twenty years since I chose this life path. The generations or two older than me (if we’re going in 10-year increments, say) brought all these other approaches into jazz drumming - people like Joey Baron, Tom Rainey, Jim Black, Mike Sarin, Kenny Wollesen have influenced me greatly. It has also become much more common to find very interesting drummer/composer/leaders who are not just the nominal heads of blowing sessions, but drummers with powerful composer/leader concepts - Gerry Hemingway and John Hollenbeck are examples that come to mind… Rock, textural free improvisation, African and Diaspora drum traditions and 20th century Western music are as important in my concept of jazz drum language as bebop and early jazz approaches... I’ve been studying Cuban Bata drumming for the last year, which keeps me humble and reminds me constantly how much percussion inspiration there is in the world!”