François Houle/ Alexander Hawkins/ Harris Eisenstadt
You Have Options | Songlines
The bringing together of clarinetist François Houle, pianist Alexander Hawkins and drummer Harris Eisenstadt came about in 2014. That’s when Ken Pickering, the late co-founder and artistic director of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, suggested Alexander Hawkins as a piano player in a new Houle project.
Eisenstadt, a Brooklyn-based Canadian bandleader/composer, was already on deck in the drummer’s seat, but Oxford-based Hawkins wasn’t known to Houle. He had however played with Eisenstadt before.
Pickering was legendary in his ability to bring players together in successful combinations. Houle trusted him on his selection and so it came to pass that the trio played two freewheeling shows at the 2014 festival. The project remained on the back burner for the busy players for a few more years until the chance to record arrived.
By that point, the members all had compositions to bring to the sessions as well as ideas of who else to add in. Here are five things to know about it:
1 — The title track is awesome: Even if you didn’t like the music, Eisenstadt’s piece that the album is named after has one of the best song titles ever. The complete title is You Have Options, I Have a Lawyer. It’s a beautiful tune that builds slowly for about half the song before it picks up on a somewhat sombre groove that opens up for Hawkins to lay down some really random piano that just hits perfectly.
2 — Run Riot: While the music on You Have Options runs the gamut of open spaces to interwoven grooves, no other song is quite as wide-open and free as track three. This Houle composition showcases the clarinetist’s ability to soar all over and around his rhythm section and howl. There is a point at 2:37 when his instrument sounds like it wants to surrender; awesome.
3 — Prayer: A solemn piece which may well be my favourite on the whole record, this six minute-long song rides in on a simple rhythm pattern all awash in big full piano chording and then Houle just solos his heart out over top of it all. The effect is meditative and lovely.
4 — Steve Lacy, Andrew Hill, Charles Ives: Among the other composers whose material turns up on the session are pieces from jazz greats Lacy and Hill as well as classical modernist Ives, who has a clarinet/violin/piano piece reworked into a improvisation for these players. Houle often bridges classical and jazz worlds having studied and performed in both.
5 — Songlines: This Vancouver-based label has nearly a three decades-long relationship with Houle as well as putting out two fantastic Eisenstadt releases — Canada Day II (2011) and Recent Developments (2017). If you have an ear for new music coming out in Canada, be sure to check out the company catalogue. Next up is a series of recordings from Seattle-based composer/pianist Wayne Horvitz working with noted Canadian string players.
Also in heavy rotation:
Ethan Ardelli Quartet: The Island of Form (ethanardelli.com): Multiple Juno award-winning Toronto-based drummer Ardelli has put together a crack ensemble for this eight song record. In particular, alto saxophonist Luis Deniz stands out on tracks such as the groovy opener Aqua and the slower, pensive Thanks for Something. There really isn’t a weak track and a number of ideas are explored over its course. Perhaps one of the most interesting is the highly atmospheric The Serpentine Path, where pianist Chris Donnelly lifts off reverberating slow scales and the rhythm section of Ardelli and bassist Devon Henderson just percolate underneath it all like, well, a snake in motion.
Nov. 11, 8 p.m. at Frankie’s Jazz Club. Tickets and info: $16 at coastaljazz.ca
Jeff Goldblum & the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra: The Capitol Studios Sessions (Decca Records/Universal Music Canada): Yes, it’s that Jeff Goldblum we’re talking about here. An accomplished pianist, he leads his long time six-piece ensemble through a set of standards ranging from Herbie Hancock’s classic Cantaloupe Island to Come On-A-My House in a live show that crackles. With guests ranging from Haley Reinhart — who does a great My Baby Just Cares — to Imelda May, who nails a few tunes, the set is delightfully lively. The only misstep is Sarah Silverman turning up for a pointless Me And My Shadow where she and Goldblum ham it up as bad as one of those SNL skits you just wish would end. Nothing here will blow you away, but it lives up to its “good fun” billing.
Royal Canoe: Waver (Paper Bag Records): This Winnipeg group has been crafting immaculate pop music for quite awhile, but it moves well beyond anything it has done before with this release. There are more ideas incorporated in the opening song What’s Left in the River than you’ll find on some entire albums and they all work. Big orchestral washes of synthesized sounds, chanting multi-part harmonies, psychedelic flourishes and hooks all drop in. And as soon as it ends, Black Sea rumbles in on some post-Manchester dance groove. Chamber music strings (May 17), mutant funk (Ashes, Ashes feat. Nnamdi Ogbonnaya), just plain off-kilter R&B (Spin Cycle) — Waver is all over the place and that makes for a right proper paddle down a river of ideas.
Toronto Tabla Ensemble: Bhumika (torontotabla.com): Tabla master Ritesh Das has lead this classical Indian music ensemble since 1991. In that time, the group has become a mainstay on Canada’s vibrant traditional music scene as well as branching off to collaborate with all manner of artists. The seven songs that comprise the group’s sixth full length recording showcase the quartet’s fierce playing. The title is Sanskrit for Earth and begins with the title track paying homage to the late Acharya Chitresh Das, Ritesh’s brother. From there, the explore many of India’s musical styles always with a heavy rhythmic depth. Faceoff, as frenetic and impacting as it is, is not about hockey. Although the “energetic meeting of the Hindustani and Carnatic rhythmic systems” in the song would sound awesome as a backing track to game highlights. Just saying.
Note from WSOE.Org : This content has been auto-generated from a syndicated feed.