Friday, November 18, 2011

Bruce Eisenbeil Sextet, Inner Constellation, Volume One, 2007

Bruce Eisenbeil is a contemporary avant guitarist who has developed a playing style pretty much all his own. He also composes music that fits the approach he has to the guitar in ways that complement his improvisatory ear and extend the approach for some highly advanced ensemble music. We've covered a few of his earlier CDs on this page in the past year. Now for another, an especially intriguing work, Inner Constellation, Volume One (Nemu 007).

It's an extended piece for sextet, in this case a worthy gathering of improvising musicians: Bruce on acoustic and electric guitars, Jean Cook, violin, Nate Wooley, trumpet, Aaron Ali Shaikh, alto sax, Tom Abbs, acoustic bass, and Nasheet Waits, drums.

The piece is structured so that written thematic sections, loosely realized collectively, alternate with solo sections for a particular instrumentalist. There are elements that remind one of Cecil Taylor and Bill Dixon's work, in the way they play out more so than in the way they sound. In turn the way Ornette's "Free Jazz" and John Coltrane's "Ascension" were structured has something to do with all this as well.

But in the end what grabs me is Bruce Eisenbeil's lucidly eloquent guitar work. He has by the time of this recording fully mastered his own way of creating rolling-tremelo picking patterns, limber and varied har-melodic phrasings that lay out with maximum expressiveness.

But then the other soloists generate plenty of interest, as does the compositional content and framework.

This is quite serious, quite substantial extended music that makes the sextet into a mini-improvising orchestra, gives plenty of latitude to each individual player (Nate Wooley alone is enlightening to hear in how he reacts and interacts) and turns what might be an "ordinary" free session into a vehicle for a longer work that achieves what is most difficult, to remain vibrantly fresh and maintain listener interest while exploring some of the outer reaches of new jazz possibilities.

This may be a few years old but it is a rather unsung, vital recording that anyone into advanced guitarwork and new improv writing should hear. Eisenbeil needs to be recognized!

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