American Roadwork / Sound on Survival Live

Jeff Stockton By

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Lisle Ellis/Marco Eneidi/Peter Valsamis
American Roadwork

According to Robert Rusch's liner notes for American Roadwork, the Sound on Survival trio (alto saxophonist Marco Eneidi, bassist Lisle Ellis and drummer Peter Valsamis) played 21 shows in 21 days and logged an estimated 8,000 miles on the road before going into the Spirit Room for this session. Eneidi's idea was for a ballads album, but Ellis suggested blues music, performed tightly and succinctly in a move away from the suite-length improvisations they had been playing in concert.

The blues is the organizing principle around which these musicians deliver concise, focused statements, like free verse poets who exercise their skills by composing a series of sonnets. Eneidi doesn't have much sweetness in his tone, mostly urgency, so a blues feel comes naturally, especially on the CD's two standout tracks: a cover of "Baby Please Don't Go and the original "Contractual Obligation Blues. Laid back and sinewy, the band performs these tunes with a malevolent seductiveness.

On the up-tempo cuts ("Shock and Awe Shucks, the title track and the three parts of "Dreamt Up Blues ), Eneidi and Ellis chase each other like a pair of pieces on a chess board, with Valsamis playing the part of the board. Ellis proves that the band is as much his as Eneidi's as the bassist delivers a breathtaking symphonic arco solo on "Vienna Blues.

Sound on Survival

Presumably recorded during the tour that led to American Roadwork, in the old days Live would have been a double record set, with performances from Amherst and Philadelphia divided in half. The three parts of "Amherst document the excitement of Eneidi's sustained energy and torrential improvisations over a pumping rhythm section. He revs up then delivers quicksilver arpeggios in short bursts from his horn.

The uninterrupted 40 minutes from Philly is naturally more discursive, featuring Ellis' extended sequence that utilizes electronic treatments and atmospheric effects. When Eneidi returns, he concludes a gorgeous solo passage with sighs, whispers and exhalations. Live runs the risk of testing the patience of a listener who's come to expect the relative brevity captured on CIMP, but the solos always move the performances forward. Taken together, both discs give a complete view of a trio working on all cylinders.

Tracks and Personnel

American Roadwork

Tracks: Baby, Please Don't Go; Dreamt Up Blues #6 Pt.2; News Blues; Contractual Obligation Blues; Shock and Awe Shucks; Dreamt Up Blues #3; American Roadwork; Dreamt Up Blues #6 Pt.1; Dreamt Up Blues #5; Nine; Vienna Blues; Short & Clean

Personnel: Lisle Ellis, bass; Marco Eneidi, alto saxophone; Peter Valsamis, drums.

Sound on Survival Live

Tracks: Amherst 1-3; Philadelphia

Personnel: Lisle Ellis, bass; Marco Eneidi, alto saxophone; Peter Valsamis, drums.


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