all music guide

Review of OPIUM for All Music Guide
by Steven Loewy

Trombone, baritone saxophone, guitar, and drums: Not such an unusual combination, to be sure, but in the hands of leader Bruce Eisenbeil, it is a base from which to produce his musical legerdemain. The guitarist/leader’s unique individual style may remind you of Derek Bailey, but only in that it does not seem to build on likely antecedents. Eisenbeil’s abstract playing is imbued with a warmth not generally associated with the radical avant-garde. While it is rarely melodic, it has a strange allure that crosses barriers.

Bass trombonist David Taylor is a welcome addition, with his brawny, occasionally clumsy sound a fine foil for Michael Attias’ saxophones. On the upbeat “Whale Booty Stomp,” Attias’ baritone sax explores the netherworld in tandem with Taylor’s bass trombone, a deadly combination. There, and elsewhere, this eclectic duo punches out daring improvisations that usually hit the mark. Jay Rosen performs admirably throughout, lending color to music that twists, stops, and never follows established patterns.

It is unclear how much of it is composed, but the results speak for themselves: clever maneuvers, outstanding soloing, wildly collective improvisations, and oddball directions. For those looking for something new in the genre of free improvisation, this may be a good place to start.