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Houle, Francois / Alexander Hawkins / Harris Eisenstadt: You Have Options (Songlines)

The Canadian trio of clarinetist Francois Houle, pianist Alexander Hawkins and drummer Harris Eisenstadt first met in 2014 for the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, taking several years to get them together again for this beautifully lyrical and sophisticated album of chamber jazz, with compositions from all three plus pieces by Steve Lacy, Andrew Hill and Charles Ives.
 

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product information:


UPC: 774355162828

Label: Songlines
Catalog ID: SGL1628-2
Squidco Product Code: 26527

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2018
Country: Canada
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at Afterlife Studios, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on July 5th, 2016, by John Raham.


Personnel:

Francois Houle-clarinet

Alexander Hawkins-piano

Harris Eisenstadt-drums

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Artist Biographies:

Francois Houle (born August 17, 1961, Lachine): "I am a Canadian clarinetist who embraces pretty much any music where the clarinet is present, or has a bit of profile or history. Although I am classically trained, I have not followed the traditional career path associated with the kind of classical training I came out of.

I studied at McGill University with Emilio Iacurto (the legendary, long-time principal clarinetist of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra) and at Yale University with Keith Wilson (whose contribution to the clarinet world is unparalleled). I've had the privilege of participating in masterclasses with some of the world's finest clarinet players, including David Shifrin, Richard Stoltzman and Alan Hacker.

It was Alan Hacker who actually opened the door for me to explore new technical and musical possibilities on the clarinet. Having been part of Fires of London and a close collaborator with composers such as Peter Maxwell-Davies, Alan's insatiable curiosity and deep scholarship inspired me to look for my own personal approach. Following a brief visit to his home in the UK in the late 80's I spent some time in Paris practicing and researching clarinet new music repertoire. At that time I still didn't know what I was going to do with my life, except that I had a deep desire to "make it" in the music scene. It was during this period that I discovered the music of Steve Lacy.

Steve Lacy's career actually began as a dixieland clarinetist, eventually shifting to the soprano saxophone, an instrument very few jazz musicians had investigated since the great Sydney Bechet due to its range, smaller embouchure and faulty intonation. Steve dedicated his life to bringing this instrument at the forefront of creative music (legend has it that he turned John Coltrane on to the soprano's expressive qualities).

At the time I had one occasion of hearing him play live at the New Morning jazz club, and bought a newly released duo recording called "Paris Blues" (Owl Records, 1987) with the great Gil Evans on piano. Heading back to Canada, that was the only music I could listen to for quite a while, being transfixed by Lacy's and Evan's telepathic playing. It was the first time that I had found a jazz performance that rivalled with the finest chamber music making I was then more familiar with. It was a game changer as far as I was concerned. It opened the door for further exploration and discoveries; Anthony Braxton, John Carter, Jimmy Giuffre, all important figures in the development of creative music on the clarinet. It is interesting and deplorable to note that not once were these names ever mentioned in all my years of university clarinet seminars and lessons. It was only a few years later that he agreed to meet with me for one on one lessons at his Paris apartment. His main advice to me was to stick with the clarinet, and forge ahead with my musical thoughts and ideas, no matter how difficult the road ahead may be.

After a stint at the Banff Centre, where I worked on my technique and practiced improvisation (the centre has a great library with an extensive jazz and creative music collection), I relocated to Vancouver in the winter of 1989, where I began playing on the creative music scene and met many musicians who eventually became fantastic collaborators; Claude Ranger, Roger Baird, Tony Wilson, amongst many others. At the time, the New Orchestra Workshop Society was approaching its golden years, with the founding of the legendary Glass Slipper, the "go to" venue for creative music on the West Coast. The Vancouver Jazz Festival was well on its way to establishing itself as one of the most innovative international music happening, not only programming some of the biggest names in the business, such as Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis, but also the most creative musicians on the planet; Cecil Taylor, Evan Parker, John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Anthony Braxton, William Parker, and a whole sleuth of European 1st generation of improvisors such as Misha Mengelberg, Han Benning, ICP, AMM, and the Italian Instabile Orchestra. It was at the 1992 Jazz Festival that I had my first high profile gig, my first band "Et Cetera" sharing the bill with the Steve Lacy Sextet!

As I was making my first steps in the improvised community, I also became involved with the contemporary music scene, collaborating with composers such as John Oliver and Paul Dolden, as well as freelancing with established organizations; Vancouver New Music, Vancouver Pro Musica. In 1992 I became a founding member of the Standing Wave ensemble. My activities in both creative music and new music allowed me to forge a strong profile, eventually expanding to collaborations with international musicians, and getting international touring opportunities. Some long standing collaborations were forged during that fruitful period, with luminaries such as Benoît Delbecq and Joëlle Léandre among others.

I have since been constantly involved in the advancement of creative music, pursuing collaborative projects with composers and musicians of all persuasions. My work continues to test the boundaries, looking for new vistas and connections with listeners everywhere."

-Francois Houle Website (https://www.francoishoule.ca/about)
4/15/2019

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Alexander Hawkins is a composer, pianist, organist, and bandleader who is 'unlike anything else in modern creative music' (Ni Kantu) and whose recent work has reached a 'dazzling new apex' (Downbeat). A largely self-taught improviser, he works in a vast array of creative contexts. His own highly distinctive soundworld is forged through the search to reconcile both his love of free improvisation and profound fascination with composition and structure. In 2012, he was chosen as a member of the first edition of the London Symphony Orchestra's 'Soundhub' scheme for young composers. He also received a major BBC commission in late 2012 for a fifty minute composition: One Tree Found was first performed and broadcast in March 2013, and was subsequently performed and broadcast for the WDR in Cologne (2014). He has also twice been commissioned by the London Jazz Festival (once as composer, once as an arranger), and by the Cheltenham Jazz Festival (2016).

An in-demand sideman, Hawkins continues to be heard live and on record with vast array of contemporary leaders of all generations, including the likes of Evan Parker, John Surman, Joe McPhee, Mulatu Astatke, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton, Marshall Allen, Rob Mazurek, Taylor Ho Bynum, and Harris Eisenstadt, amongst many others. He has also been noted in recent years for his performances in the bands of legendary South African drummer, Louis Moholo-Moholo. Concert appearances have taken him to club, concert and festival stages worldwide."

-Alexander Hawkins Website (http://www.alexanderhawkinsmusic.com/biographyimages.html)
4/15/2019

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"One of only a handful of drummers equally well known for his work as a composer, Brooklyn-based Harris Eisenstadt (b. Toronto, 1975) is among the most individual and prolific musicians of his generation. His resume includes studies with some of the most respected names in jazz and improvised music, West African and Afro-Cuban drumming, and performance credits in jazz, film, theater, poetry, dance, contemporary concert music and opera.

Eisenstadt has performed all over the globe, received grants from organizations such as Meet The Composer, American Composers Forum, Canada Council for the Arts, and appeared on more than 60 recordings since 2000, including twenty as a leader. Recordings of his compositions often appear on the Songlines, Clean Feed, No Business, and 482 Music labels, and are consistently included on critics' best-of lists. Recent honors: Rising Star Percussion Percussion, Arranger, and Composer categories of the Downbeat international critics poll; Best Album, Drummer, Composer categories of the El Intruso international critics poll.

His first work for orchestra, Palimpsest, was premiered by the American Composers Orchestra, as part of the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute at Miller Theater, Columbia University (2011). Eisenstadt's second orchestral work, Four Songs, commissioned by the Brooklyn Conservatory Community Orchestra, was premiered at the Brooklyn Museum (2013). His first string quartet, Whatever Will Happen, That Will Also Be, was premiered as part of Eisenstadt's twelve-set residency at The Stone in NYC (2015). As a writer and radio producer, he has contributed to National Public Radio and AfroPop Worldwide. Eisenstadt is also an active AfroCuban batá drummer in New York and a longtime researcher in African and diaspora vernacular traditions. He has travelled to West Africa twice (Gambia, Senegal) to research Mandinka and Wolof music, and to Cuba twice (Matanzas, Havana) to research Afro-Cuban music."

-Harris Eisenstadt Website (http://www.harriseisenstadt.com/bio/)
4/15/2019

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.
track listing:


1. Clue 5:19

2. Art 7:16

3. Run Riot 3:21

4. The Pitts 6:18

5. Prayer 6:19

6. Advice 4:21

7. Largo 5:34

8. You Have Options, I Have A Lawyer 6:46

9. Le Concombre De Chicoutimi 6:14

10. Dusk 7:19
sample the album:








descriptions, reviews, &c.

"This new international chamber-jazz trio with classical and avant leanings features beautiful tunes and tasty improvisation. Canadian clarinetist Francois Houle, British pianist Alexander Hawkins, and NY-based Canadian drummer Harris Eisenstadt are highly regarded leaders and genuinely sympatico. The program features original compositions by all three plus pieces by Steve Lacy, Andrew Hill and Charles Ives. The group first came together for the 2014 Vancouver jazz festival and played some wild improvisational music but the record is mostly on the more lyrical and contemplative side. Houle and Eisenstadt and Hawkins and Eisenstadt have long histories of performing together, but Alex and Francois had not met previously. Their performing blend is different from previous Houle projects on Songlines with European pianists Benoit Delbecq and Havard Wiik - perhaps more classically poised and spacious, but warm rather than cool, and with an edge when needed. Harris's fastidious, highly textured drumming is the perfect percussive complement. Both Houle and Eisenstadt have extensive back catalogue on Songlines."-Songlines



"You Have Options represents more than a culmination of thoughts and ideas, musically and logistically. The coming together with Alex and Harris, and the music we've managed to create despite the constraints of geography, time, and space, epitomizes the vision of a very special person, without whom this project would have never come to life.

Since moving to Vancouver in 1990 I have forged a special relationship with Ken Pickering, the now retired Artistic Director (Emeritus) and Co-founder of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Throughout his 40-some years at the helm of Coastal Jazz & Blues Society, Ken has encouraged collaborations of all sorts between local musicians and their peers from around the world. He would go out of his way to pair established artists with local musicians who grabbed his ears during his many outings to concerts. Thanks to his mentorship I've had the amazing opportunity to not only share the stage with many of my musical heroes, such as Steve Lacy, Evan Parker, George Lewis and Joëlle Léandre (to name a few), but also to forge life-long friendships with many of them. For example, I've been collaborating with legendary French bassist Joëlle Léandre and pianist Benoît Delbecq for more than 25 years.

Over the years Ken and I shared a little ritual together, which consisted in meeting on Monday mornings at Milano's Coffee on East 8th. During these meetings we'd discuss everything from the weather to current political affairs, but we'd also perform a kind of assessment of our individual activities, constantly dreaming up new ways of doing things. In 2010, in preparation for upcoming jazz festival programs, I suggested putting together an international quintet, with the intention of mixing up old relationships with new ones in order to form an exciting lineup for a performance at The Ironworks, a favourite venue of touring and local musicians. This idea stemmed from Ken's philosophy to foster international collaborations. Ken immediately jumped on the idea and suggested a few artists who were already expressing the desire to present their projects at the festival that year. We came up with a small combo with American Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet, Swiss trombonist (Berlin resident) Samuel Blaser, Parisian pianist Benoît Delbecq, and two Canadians residing in Brooklyn, bassist Michael Bates and drummer Harris Eisenstadt. (It was my first time performing with Samuel, though I'd performed with Harris in his one-off Vancouver Quartet at the 2008 festival.) The group gelled wonderfully from the get-go, with a 2011 recording session at New Jersey's Water Music Studios and a Canada-US tour and release of Genera on the Songlines label in 2012.

Harris' playing throughout this project was so solid and inspiring that I knew I'd want to explore other avenues to perform and create music with him. In addition to being a fantastic drummer, Harris is a scholar of African and Cuban percussion traditions, and a really warm and easygoing person. If that wasn't enough, Harris has a really unique gift as a composer, with a penchant for infectious lyricism and unusual harmonic twists and turns. His Canada Day projects really grabbed my ears.

With Harris in mind I floated by Ken the idea of a trio with him and a pianist for the 2014 jazz festival. Ken immediately suggested Alexander Hawkins, a UK pianist that I had not heard of before, as Alex had been collaborating with Harris since 2006 in the co-led Convergence Quartet (which also included Taylor). Ken spoke so highly of Alex that I accepted the suggestion without having heard his playing. Such was the extent to which I value Ken's opinions.

Our first performances as a trio were a late-night gig at The Ironworks on June 29, 2014 and an afternoon show at Performance Works on July 1. We pulled together a few charts but mostly improvised a wild set of music to full houses. Alex: "...that gig on Canada Day itself...that was insane! Never having experienced the Jazzfest before, I was slightly unsure how it would work to play this music (what I love about the record is that it's often very spacious and poised, but live, things did get pretty wild at times) in front of that size of non-specialist audience, but it was almost a perfect musical experience: people just checking out music, for free, without any prejudice as to what it was supposed to be like...kids, families, hard core listeners, casual listeners ­- everyone was super into it in a way that was really touching."

In fact those gigs were such a success that we started plotting a course of action for repeat performances and maybe a recording project. When Ken booked Alex's trio (with Harris on drums) for the 2016 festival, we organized a one-day session at Afterlife Studio.

The session itself was unusual in that we didn't really plan on a specific choice of repertoire. My initial thought was to do a full CD of improvisations, but knowing Songlines' Tony Reif's preference for releasing mostly composed repertoire, we pulled a bunch of charts and started hammering away at a mixed bag of ideas. As we played and tried out a few tunes, it quickly became apparent that we really felt at ease playing each other's original compositions, but also repertoire that was familiar to all of us. Alex and Harris suggested "Dusk" by Andrew Hill, and Alex suggested Steve Lacy's strangely nostalgic tune, "Art." The most unusual selection followed a conversation about off-the-beaten-path chamber music works. I mentioned my love of Charles Ives' music, in particular a wonderfully, not often performed Largo for clarinet, violin and piano. As I was scheduled to perform the work that summer, I pulled the score out and Alex had a go at the piano introduction, with me playing the violin part. It worked rather well and we made a few takes without ever digging into the third section of the piece where the clarinet writing actually occurs. This rendition would definitely make the heads of classical music aficionados turn, as the level of freedom in interpreting the material somehow reflects the renegade attitude of the composer.

Harris: "What a pleasure to check back in on this music! I remember how very different the music we recorded felt compared to the initial performances....as though we had to pass through that first meeting in order to find the music we hear now on this session. There's a sense of poise, of tranquility, even during the densest moments. It feels as if this often delicate, sometimes fierce recording offers another possible response to the question we posed together during the performance on Granville Island - what does it mean to commit entirely to an impassioned hour of improvised music for an audience of hundreds of people unaware, at first, of what they're about to hear?"

Alex: "Harris and I had just come back to town after a few days on Vancouver Island with my trio and I was in a really great space - being out in Canadian nature and playing music with friends must be the two of the best places to be! I recall that we didn't necessarily play the same repertoire on the recording as we'd played on the gigs, and yet it all came very naturally. Clearly you and Harris have a long relationship, as do he and I, but given how little we'd played together at this point (you and I, and the trio), it was pretty uncanny how easy it all was, in the best possible way. I love the way Charles Ives, Andrew Hill, Lacy, and our own music sit totally unselfconsciously alongside each other...it's that great thing of being stylistically eclectic yet totally coherent - but naturally eclectic (deliberate eclecticism is such a drag!)."

It's this unselfish quality that defines long-term friendships, ones that move us to engage in new life experiences and to share ideas. If Ken Pickering's mentorship has taught me one thing, it's to trust the process. If one is surrounded by likeminded people, good things happen. It's certainly true in music. This trio owes its existence to Ken. The music on this release is a tribute to his generosity of spirit and singular vision*. "-François Houle

*In Memoriam Ken Pickering (1952-2018)

Related Categories of Interest:


Improvised Music
Jazz
Free Improvisation
Canadian Composition & Improvisation
Vancouver and Western Canada
Trio Recordings
Melodic and Lyrical Jazz
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Improvised Music
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