Much of contemporary avant garde jazz seems to accentuate the avant garde aspect of the proposition at the expense of the jazz part. Sound on Survival, however, exempts themselves from this generalization with playing that falls squarely within the finest free jazz tradition on their Live CD. Featuring four extended improvisations from concerts in Amherst and Philadelphia, the trio of Lisle Elis on bass, Marco Eneidi on saxophone and Peter Valsamis on drums gives every appearance of advancing the dialectic of not only John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, but Charlie Parker as well. The trio is indefatigable; whether you will feel as fresh after 77 minutes of continuous, furious improvisation is perhaps another matter.
The first half of the set is culled from the Amherst gig, and consists of three discrete improvisations ranging from nine and half to eighteen minutes of duration. The second half is a marathon forty minute jam from Philadelphia. The interplay between the musicians recall the Coleman groups with Ed Blackwell and Charlie Haden, with overtones of Elvin Jones in Valsamis's busy playing and perhaps a more manic Sonny Rollins in Eneidi's discursive riffing. The methodology is interesting; it isn't the classic bop theme-solo-theme-outro--motives are not that obvious--but they do seem to go progressively far out as the individual performances develop. Eneidi's first solo on the first "Amherst" piece seems straight forward enough, but after giving the Valsamis and Elis the spotlight, he comes back with something a bit further deconstructed. Another piece begins with Valsamis playing all over the kit, the group falling in somewhat straightforwardly at first but ultimately inviting a musically rewarding form of entropy into the proceedings.
Sound on Survival Live is definitely not for the MTV set; the trio's approach is to let things develop over the long haul. Not in the modal sense: the group often turns direction on a dime. But what they do is play on until their ideas are exhausted. Not beyond that point, but right up to it. The result is a rewarding, if slightly draining, listen. Think of it as a workout and enjoy the burn.