BRUCE EISENBEIL SEXTET – Inner Constellation Volume One


In 2001, guitarist and composer Bruce Eisenbeil had a sort of epiphany while working in a 40-piece ensemble conducted by Cecil Taylor, feeling the urge to deepen his knowledge of Taylor’s sextet of the late 70s (Taylor plus Jimmy Lyons, Raphe Malik, Ramsey Ameen, Sirone and Ronald Shannon Jackson). Consequently he started writing himself for sextet, substituting the guitar to the piano, in search of that “development of individual voices in a clear democratic system” which he achieves through stratification-based (as opposed to imitation-based) counterpoint. Eisenbeil needed five fellow researchers in this venture, and he found them in Jean Cook (violin), Nate Wooley (trumpet), Aaron Ali Shaikh (alto sax), Tom Abbs (acoustic bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums). The 27 short movements of the title track, which took two years for Eisenbeil to complete, were composed by the guitarist through a computerized notation program, each musician learning the part by ear; he parallels the score to the image of stars in the sky at night, where everyone tries to figure out shapes and faces by virtually connecting the dots. On record, this results as a fertile ground of singular intuitions, reciprocal acceptance and ironic swing, often corroborated by thematic materials which somehow break the ever-mounting tension that the contrasting instrumental statements constantly ease. There’s a strong link to – get this – “traditional free jazz”, yet a name that crossed my mind at one point was Richard Woodson, another bright young man active on this scene whose compositional lucidity could probably be compared to Eisenbeil’s in more than one way. Still, the leader quotes people like Xenakis, Ligeti, Lachenmann, Ellington, Coltrane and Braxton among the many influences of “Inner constellation”, and who am I to dissent? Kudos also go to Wooley and Cook, who win my prize for the most interesting solos on offer, but believe me when I tell you that it’s the GROUP that burns – whichever way you try to handle it. It’s not over: as three is a perfect number – or so they say – the last three tracks are, you guessed it, trios; Eisenbeil, Abbs and Waits work at their acoustically-inspired best to picture wet dreams where Derek Bailey dances with Trilok Gurtu while listening to chanting shamans. The bassist and the drummer shine throughout these final ten minutes, Eisenbeil approving without interrupting their excitement, only reserving the final word to himself in the tranquil chordal shimmer of the very last song “Receding storm”. After “Carnival Skin”, another Bruce Eisenbeil must for those who are tired of eating “Autumn leaves” from the guts of corpses. This man here plays jazz with a Strat, you know.


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