When thinking of free jazz artists currently creating vital work, alto player Marco Eneidi is one who ought to leap to the top of the list. Having spent time in the early 80s studying with Jimmy Lyons and Bill Dixon, Eneidi has synthesized an instantly recognizable sound on his horn. Like Lyons and Jemeel Moondoc (who he also played with early on) he extends the bop vocabulary into fiery freedom with a unique sense of linear invention and phrasing. Last year's releases on CIMP (with the Sound on Survival trio featuring Lisle Ellis on bass and Peter Valsamis on drums) and his own Boticelli label (with Peter Brötzmann, Ellis, and Jackson Krall) brought well deserved accolades, giving him a modicum of visibility after a relative drought in recorded output. In the liner notes to the CIMP release, producer Bob Rusch talks about Eneidi, Ellis, and Valsamis arriving at the recording session at the end of a tour where they played 21 gigs in 21 days! This live disc captures pieces from two of those gigs, offering up three tracks recorded at the Unitarian Meeting House in Amherst, Massachusetts, and one 40-minute piece caught at the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia.
In the studio setting of their CIMP recording, the trio distilled their thematic improvisations into short, standalone pieces. In this live set, the three open up, stringing together themes into arcing improvisations. The three pieces from Amherst charge along; building with propulsive torrents that ebb and flow from pools of edgy calm to spitfire intensity. Ellis' bass can resonate with muscular power or hurtle along, goading at the tumbling collective energy. Valsamis responds with drumming that slashes across the kit, laying out open pointillistic colors in the quiet sections and then building to lithe cascades. But it is Eneidi's restive angular lines that really kick things along. His phrasing seems to spill over the bass and drums, always pushing against the driving pulse.
The 40-minute Philadelphia piece plays out a bit differently. The three explode out of the gate with Eneidi's alto caterwauling over Ellis and Valsamis' blazing pulse. But about 15 minutes in, Eneidi drops out and Ellis slowly introduces electronic treatments around his booming bass. Valsamis responds by opening up the rhythms until the pulse disappears then slowly weaves it back in. The long central section for bass and drums plays against the surging flow of the opening, moving the music into collective abstraction. When the alto finally comes back in at the 25-minute mark, the music takes on a more contemplative tone, slowly simmering and building its way to an explosive sprint to the finish. Though the central section meanders a bit, it reveals another side of the trio; showing their expansive sense of collaborative exploration.
With Eneidi off to Austria now as an ex-pat, Ellis in New York, and Valsamis remaining in the Bay Area, one wonders what the future of this trio might be. But on the basis of their CIMP release and this companion live outing, it would be a huge loss if they don't find ways to reunite.