Harris Eisenstadt's fifth album as a leader features a sextet of young Chicago players and all-star names. The lesser-known names are vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, gracefully waltzing through the drummer's complex compositions, and reeds player Jason Mears, who seems too busy keeping up with the score to truly shine. Bassist Jason Roebke has previously proved his worth (in Tigersmilk and the Scott Fields Ensemble, among other projects). Vandermark 5 trombonist Jeb Bishop and Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker are the most recognizable voices in the group, and live up to the expectations their names stir. Bishop's playing is soulful as ever and downright moving in "Seed," a piece dedicated to composer Henryk Górecki. Parker's dreamy lines steal the spotlight in "Portrait of Holden Caulfield" and remain a defining element of the album throughout. Eisenstadt's writing borrows from post-bop, structured improvisation, and contemporary classical. It is neither Chicago jazz nor West Coast jazz, but something that encompasses both. This album sees him moving deeper into free-form territory, with lots of sections that are not notated but shaped, with varying results. These moments are contrasted with sharply written passages, as in "Kola #2 (Reduction)" and "The Evidence of Absence Is Not Necessarily the Absence of Evidence." The latter is the album's undisputed highlight for its witty complexity, swing, and tight ensemble playing, although "And a Hard Place" makes an excellent contender to the title, with its slow-paced, heavy theme and another dead-on solo from Bishop. Eisenstadt's music is often more melody-based than beat-driven, which is not common among composing drummers. So, by all means, don't approach The Soul and Gone as a drummer's record. Approach it instead as one of the finest American creative jazz releases of 2005.
AllMusic Review by François Couture