Marco Eneidi, William Parker, and Donald Robinson recorded Cherry Box live in concert on September 20, 1998 at the Mills College Concert Hall in Oakland, California. Parker is the best known of the three musicians and most readers of this review probably don't need an introduction to the bassist's considerable work both as a leader and as a member of bands lead by leading figures in creative improvised music such as Cecil Taylor and David S. Ware. Eneidi and Robinson are far less known even if they are amongst the best players in the vibrant Bay Area avant-garde scene. The packaging to this release -the box for this Cherry Box - contains discographies for both Eneidi and Robinson and shows that two have spent considerable time working with many other fine musicians. Eneidi has recorded his saxophone musings with the underrated Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble as well as Bill Dixon and Parker's own Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. Robinson is perhaps best known for playing the kit behind the late Glen Spearman -many times with Eneidi also in tow- and pianist Matthew Goodheart. Additionally Eneidi and Robinson have each played together on recordings where the other is the leader.
I hate to say it but in a lot of ways the basic outline for this recording in rather conventional. Put together a group of great improvisers, let them bounce sonic ideas off of one another, record the result, and you will probably get an exciting recording, albeit one not likely to change the world and reach that many ears unaccustomed to such music. Cherry Box falls into such a pattern with music that is likeable and thought provoking but hardly revolutionary, daring or even particularly moving.
Eneidi and Parker deliver fine if predictable performances but fans of either man are unlikely to find anything that would change each player's legacy. The real star of Cherry Box is Robinson who mixes brilliant supportive playing with fascinating sections where he stands on equal footing with his trio mates.
On "Forget It" Robinson stays in the background just enough that the track sometimes sounds like a duet between Eneidi and Parker. Robinson focuses on the snare drum here and his sound melts into Parker's bass. Yet listeners who focus in on the drummer's work here will find a lot to like. The laid back and unflashy playing is the perfect compliment to Parker's ever so percussive driving work and Eneidi's soulful wailing.
Such work is tasteful and impressive but pales in comparison to what Robinson can do when he takes a equal in a position in this trio. He has a penchant for cymbal patterns that enliven and contextuatlize the sonic products of Eneidi and Parker. Robinson breathes life into "One More Thing" with his striking of those circular metallic objects. The drummer also breathers life into what is otherwise a mediocre recording.