Harris Eisenstadt | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Harris Eisenstadt 

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In late 2002 Harris Eisenstadt spent a couple months studying with traditional Mandinka percussionists in Gambia and became fascinated by the horn-and-drum music he heard there. Rather than assign the melody to a lead voice, the Gambian ensembles--made up mostly of single-pitched bone, wood, or metal instruments--use a technique called hocketing: several musicians trade notes in rapid succession, so that their total output forms a melodic shape. On Eisenstadt's new recording, Jalolu (CIMP), the LA-based drummer presents his own audacious take on this technique. He's enlisted four accomplished avant-garde jazz musicians--trumpeters Paul Smoker, Roy Campbell, and Taylor Ho Bynum and saxophonist Andy Laster--to play his rigorously contrapuntal arrangements, a few of which incorporate transcriptions he made in Africa. Sometimes Eisenstadt calls on the players to use note-by-note hocketing, but more often than not they make improvised contributions or play hot potato with written parts that overlap like miscut puzzle pieces. Though the deft arrangments prevent the three trumpets from blending into an indistinct blare, the music can still get pretty cacophonous: one section of "Seruba" sounds like a brass band committing mutiny. On the last four nights of his first Chicago visit, Eisenstadt performs with three local lineups: on Thursday, bassist Tatsu Aoki and reedist Keefe Jackson; on Friday and Saturday, trombonist Jeb Bishop, vibist Jason Adasiewicz, and bassist Jason Roebke; and on Sunday, bassist Josh Abrams, trumpeter Josh Berman, and reedist Dave Rempis. Thursday, May 27, 9:30 PM, 3030, 3030 W. Cortland; 773-862-3616 (donation requested). Friday, May 28, 9 PM, Candlestick Maker, 4432 N. Kedzie; 773-463-0158 ($10 suggested donation). Saturday, May 29, 9:30 PM, Velvet Lounge, 21281/2 S. Indiana; 312-791-9050 ($10). Sunday, May 30, 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont; 773-935-2118 (put some money in the pitcher).


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