jazziz

Jazziz Magazine, February 2000
Bruce Eisenbeil’s Crosscurrent Trio: Mural (CIMP)

Anyone who heard Bruce Eisenbeil’s Nine Wings, his debut from 1997, has been waiting impatiently for a sequel. Her is a guitarist who plays as intimately as Wes Montgomery, but who hears harmony s an open chromatic field. His busy chords flutter like starling’s wings, gently occupying the harmonic spaces broken into by McCoy Tyner and John Coltrane in a more strenuous, heroic epoch. His originality is evidenced by the fact that he has transcended the distinction between a leading line and comping strum: He improvises the changes, turning harmonic speculation into the substance of the music. Instead of cacophony, what results is aerated and free. The Crosscurrent Trio is Jason Brunka on bass and Ryan Sawyer on drums. They’re committed to Eisenbeil’s concept, reveling in the exoticism of “Caesar,” following his luxuriant speculations with gorgeous washes. Brunka bows resourcefully, and Sawyer is adept at the drum rolls and cymbal shimmers that make the drum set as much a textural scene-setter as a beat machine. On “Crucifixion,” they make Eisenbeil’s instant melody line hover in the air with hallucinogenic clarity.

The avant-garde doesn’t often have time for sentiment, but the theme of “Woman With a Handful of Rain” is so melancholy it brings a lump to the throat. This trio is pursuing an agenda as old as Louis Armstrong: helping us feel again. Lovely.

- Ben Watson