Sound on Survival: Live (2005)
Coining a catchy sobriquet in synch with its '70s free jazz roots, the trio of altoist Marco Eneidi, bassist Lisle Ellis, and drummer Peter Valsamis has been making Richter-sized seismic waves for quite a while. The music financed by the fledgling Henceforth label as its first release exhibits the "road work of a short American tour that presaged the band's recording session for CIMP. That latter date registered on numerous 2004 year-end lists, my own included, as a serious new contender in the power trio sweepstakes.
The disc presents a generous and attractive package of concert material taped by Valsamis in the days leading up to their seminal sojourn at the Spirit Room. Three tracks from Amherst and a sprawling piece from a Philadelphia concert, all untitled, nearly surpass their digital receptacle's running time. Liner photos depict tantalizing shots of the Velvet Lounge and its telltale floral print wallpaper, but that particular pushpin on the trio's travel plan goes oddly unrepresented.
While not quite on par with the concision and esprit of the CIMP confab, there's still plenty of high caliber blowing to behold, and the three manage to work up quite the frothing lather. Eneidi's signature razor-edged articulation and bleating intervallic flutters remain intactthe alto equivalent of Ali's floating butterfly and stinging bee. Ellis holds the center on an electric solid body upright, sustaining a callus-abrading pace and thick sirloin steak tone that gives the music a meaty bottom end. Valsamis exercises supple strength with sticks and serves in a similar capacity as propulsive force. He also acts as a crafty coloring agent when emphasis switches to atmospheric extrapolation. Sweat-saturated brio and a prevailing perspicacity are hardly in short supply.
Two shorter Amherst tracks, occupying just shy of ten minutes apiece, fare better than their more capacious bookends. The larger lesson learned seems to be that the trio works better when it sets clear cut parameters on excursions. The forty-minute Philly piece has numerous instances of ramping excitement, but a bloated middle section that bogs down under the weight of diffusive repartee between bassist and drummer. The perils of prolix improv also manifest in the series of rhythmic ruts Eneidi extricates himself from on occasion. Ellis incorporates interludes of electronics to further vary the palette, but the echo and loop-laden results feel a shade gimmicky when compared to the forthright thrust of his fleshy pizzicato sans filters. Eneidi's surprisingly lyrical reentry rights the listing vessel, and the trio is soon once again covering territory at a cheetah-tempoed clip.
Occasional errata aside, listeners already wise to these three will find this set a welcome extension of their modest, but hopefully soon expanding studio ledger. Those just becoming acquainted are in for an even bigger treat. Sound on Survival taps the venerable energy source that most fans of free jazz find irresistible.
Track Listing: Amherst (18:03); Amherst (9:53); Amherst (9:35); Philadelphia (40:10).
Personnel: Lisle Ellis: bass; Marco Eneidi: alto saxophone; Peter Valsamis: drums.