I believe it was in June or July of 2002 when Harris Eisenstadt (1975, Toronto, Ont., Canada) began proposing music projects to me for CIMP. I was more impressed by the ambitiousness of his proposals than any concrete demonstration of his ideas. We stayed in touch and, about a half year later, Harris presented a demo that I found quite interesting, originally proposed as a septet of 3 trumpets and 3 saxes. I tentatively committed to record the concepts. At the same time, I had some reservations as to the breathability of his work along with comments about starkness, release, space, and execution. Harris understood and agreed that some adjustments in these areas would give power to the whole of his musical structures. Harris then left on December 8, 2002 to spend two months studying music in the Republic of Gambia in West Africa. He returned, inspired, and whether or not this had any obvious influence on this recording I have no idea. I deliberately didn't discuss it with Harris. My main structural concerns had been addressed and I had little concern for the execution of the compositions nor, as important, the quality of improvising from the players—now 3 trumpets and 1 sax.
I have worked with Paul Smoker (1941; Muncie, IN), Roy Campbell (1952;L.A., CA), and Taylor Ho Bynum (1975; Baltimore, MD) numerous times in the past. Andy Laster (1961; Bethpage, Long Island, NY) I knew by reputation, including a series of fine recordings for SoundAspects/OpenMinds Records in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and with the cooperative group New And Used. I felt confident that this was a group that could deal with the compositional demands and deliver the improvisational impact that I felt was missing in Harris' earlier demos, and I felt any necessary fine tuning would be worked out in rehearsals and gigs prior to arriving at The Spirit Room.
The evening session opened with the declaratory Mwindo which, over 3 takes, refined itself both in proportioning its energy and structure (the results of perceptive and constructive criticism among the group), from the ho hum to the dynamic. It is the added plus (unnoticed by the end listener) thatmusicians of this caliber bring to the music. Their talent is a given but the value-added assets of musicality is what helps deliver the goods to such exceptional fullness. And credit equally goes to the leader whose ego and talent allows the music to happen. These are artists who are unafraid to want a real involvement with music.
The same thing happened with the next tune, Seruba (take 1): a general discussion that resulted in a completely reworked orchestration dynamic (take 2). It was as if everybody was following a new script, completely together, but with no specific instructions—or at least none that I was aware of.
Boogie on Lenjeno was up next and discussions from the prior works were reflected in the space and coloring of this piece—an interesting composition that seemingly deconstructs itself, reconstructs itself, and then appears to reinvent and redirect itself; kind ofa trumpet's insurrection quite independent of the leader/drummer. Eventually everybody gets with the program.
They decided to do one more piece for the night. Jumpin In betrays no fatigue. It's a trumpet festival with wonderful solos and multiple parts. Paul's comment at the end: "You onlylive once, I guess. You might as well go for it."
The next morning, amid piles of breakfast food and drink, a spirited discussion involved nothing of the previous night's proceedings—a case of satisfaction not indifference. That morning's main aim was to address Ahimsa, a bit of a trumpet chops buster much discussed in anticipation the night before. A few more takes and it was finished.
I have included alternate takes of Seruba and Jumpin In for 3 reasons: there was room; they are interesting for the contrast they offer and to illustrate the point I made above; and, finally and most importantly, it is good music, adding to the whole not just filling it.
This was the final recording of our 8th year and our 200th release. Once again, it is music of notable quality and artistry, defining its own distinctiveness amidst 199 other distinct artistic musings. And that in itself inspires.Thanks Harris, Roy, Paul, Taylor, and Andy for the pleasures of your efforts.
Robert D. Rusch - 10/28/03