Having reached a comfortable maturity in his playing and composing, Toronto-born, Brooklyn-based percussionist Harris Eisenstadt isn’t averse to showcasing his talents in varied settings. With On Parade in Parede, the drummer has created a spirited post-bop session with his Canada Day quartet. Meanwhile, his Recent Developments CD is a spiky recasting of composed chamber jazz played by a nonet.
Trumpeter Nate Wooley, featured on both discs, is in addition cast in dual roles. Given a large canvas to work with on Parade, his contributions are splattered, as he uses back-of-throat growls, plunger squeaks, and sometimes-muted correlation to advance themes, often doubled by tenor saxophonist Matt Bauder’s understated counterpoint. Eisenstadt’s targeted ascents, plus the loping stops of bassist Pascal Niggenkemper, are cleanly executed, while confirming the band’s take on the jazz tradition. The drummer’s nerve beats and rim shots also underline the narrative on the bumpy and boisterous “We All Ate What We Wanted to Eat, Parts 2 & 5.” As the trumpeter squeezes emotional lines from his horn’s midrange, in counterpoint to the saxophonist’s excursion into split tones and wood-rending pumps from the bassist, Eisenstadt’s cunning rhythms integrate thematic shards into a satisfying ending. Other standouts include the relaxed “A Fine Kettle of Fish” and “We All Ate What We Wanted to Eat, Part 3 / She Made Old Bones,” which maintain musical integrity through Wooley’s gorgeous open-horn solo on the first and reed-and-bass string modulations on the second. But there’s enough timbre disintegration and dense sheets of sound to confirm that this isn’t your parents’ post bop.

Recent Developments’ nonet program is neither standard chamber jazz nor chamber music. Although reminiscent at points of some of Charles Ives’ early twentieth-century semi-rural compositions, a cutting urbanity—heard in Anna Weber’s flute, Sara Schoenbeck’s bassoon, and Hank Robert’s cello, for instance—strips away any sentimental leanings in Eisenstadt’s six-part suite. Brandon Seabrook’s banjo serves as chalk-on-blackboard interruption when retrogressive cursive harmonies threaten. Eivid Opsvik’s bass provides a steadying bottom, while Jeb Bishop’s trombone serves as a broken-octave contrast to the reed expression. Following an undulating exposition of bassoon, flute, and walking bass, “Part 2” accelerates to a face-off between rasgueado banjo and Dan Peck’s tuba blats, and ends with a lonesome trombone slur. Wooley is outstanding as a colourist on this disc, packaging smears and whinnies into warm grace-notes to link with the drummer’s martial beats on “Part 1.” Moving through interludes where unexpected instrumental groupings and contrapuntal affiliations bring out instances of swinging surprises from every instrument, no matter how far out of its comfort range it must be yanked, Recent Developments reaches an imposing climax of melded imagery and techniques with the brief “Part 6” and “Epilogue.” Buoyant themes reach logical conclusions with harmonies that—usually via Seabrook’s strums—retain a spiky edge, while contributions from the other players frame a suite which belies its prosaic title to confirm the drummer’s skilful maturity—and compositional mastery.