For an album of works composed and directed by the drummer, September Trio doesn’t focus on Harris Eisenstadt. Tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin stands out with his broad tone and flair for microtonal pitch bends, which lends drama to his voice. Pianist Angelica Sanchez adds glistening lines that open up the music, whether it sounds like a free ballad (as several of these tracks do) or something built on clear changes. But Eisenstadt makes himself known, stirring the mixture delicately in a way that recalls Paul Motian’s approach to such sensitive music. He may not always play time, but he’s clearly contributing to the ebb and flow.
The album was recorded in one session in 2010, and for that reason Eisenstadt titled the seven tracks “September 1,” “September 2,” etc. Whether it was conceived as a suite or not, the pieces sometimes have similar personalities, though there are enough distinctions to keep them from blending into one another. Eskelin’s appearance in the first track bears an emotional quality that sounds somewhat like Albert Ayler, if that tenor titan could operate within a hushed climate. In several places throughout the album, the saxophonist adopts an almost whiney tone, which makes the situation both pretty and unsettling. He and Sanchez get into an extended conversation during “September 3,” while the next track contains open spaces between phrases, as if they felt overly polite, waiting to see who should lead. Ironically, the piece that seems the most composed is the 1:59 closing track, which ends abruptly, right as expectations hit an all-time high.