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Bruce Eisenbeil/Michael Attias/David Taylor/Jay Rosen: Opium

Bruce Eisenbeil is a difficult player to pin down. His style crosses paths with those of other notable guitarists: a dogged unpredictability allies him with Derek Bailey, while his hearty embrace of thick chords and refracted blues lines also suggests James “Blood” Ulmer. Still, the protean Eisenbeil plays with an easygoing melodicism underneath it all, which really sets him apart from any other player in the free-improv vein. His band is equally unpredictable, and their tone is very low and very dark thanks to a lineup including drummer Jay Rosen, bass trombonist David Taylor and reedist Michael Attias, who sticks largely to bass sax. The ragged quartet is just as likely to sit on buzzing abstraction as they are to settle in one of Rosen’s steady grooves, and Attias and Taylor make an odd couple. The former is a bit of a straight man, while the latter tends toward guffaws and horn deconstruction. The two work much better as supporting players.

Eisenbeil puts his slippery aesthetic to good work on Opium, roaring through some passages, crafting fields of ambient background sound through others. When all is right with this group, Eisenbeil’s guitar sets the tone, leaving the other three musicians a framework and the option of either working within it or against it. Eisenbeil seems to enjoy the herky-jerky unpredictability and potential for blunt gesture this group offers, but it would be good to hear him in a more exposed setting.

Originally Published