This third installment of Harris Eisenstadt’s Canada Day recordings is the most delicate and subtly complex collection thus far. Some of that is probably due to the more elaborate orchestral work Eisenstadt composed just before embarking upon these pieces – indeed, a couple of the tracks are “trimmings” from that endeavor – and some of it stems from the greater familiarity and maturity that allows the Canada Day ensemble to execute such challenging, interwoven compositions so thoroughly. The only change in the Canada Day quintet since 2007 has been the recent switch from Eivind Opsvik to Garth Stevenson on bass. Also, in keeping with recent practice, the group work-shopped these tunes out on tour and then immediately headed for the studio to record them.
What results is a disc that gets better with repeated listening. The fun in, say, figuring out the rhythmic variations of “Slow and Steady,” or how “Shuttle Off This Mortal Coil” evolves from a slightly foreboding waltz into a driving toe-tapper, is more about the process than the eventual answer. And it is a renewing marvel to hear the massive, seasonally slow-and-seamless textural changes in the ironically-titled “Settled.”
There are also more immediate rewards, such as the ongoing artistry of trumpeter Nate Wooley, who is at his best working with Eisenstadt (they are regular members of each other’s ensemble) and especially amiable and accessible here. Although not quite as bawdy or “outside” as on many other records, Wooley continually stands out, be it his antic complementary interaction with drummer Eisenstadt down the stretch of “A Whole New Amount of Interactivity,” his mute solo on “the Magician of Lublin,” or his potent trilling on “Nosey Parker.”
Last but not least, mention must be made of “Song for Sara,” dedicated to Eisentstadt’s wife, Sara Schoenbeck, and set off by a gorgeous melody and keen horn interplay between Wooley and saxophonist Matt Bauder, with vibest Chris Dingman adding his deft and gentle touch. It ranks with Eisenstadt’s ode to his son (“Song For Owen”) on Canada Day II as enduring sonic family keepsakes.