Sound On Survival Live
- Lisle Ellis, bass
- Marco Eneidi, alto saxophone
- Peter Valsamis, drums
Sound On Survival Live with Lisle Ellis, bass; Marco Eneidi, alto saxophone; and Peter Valsamis, drums is the first CD from the new label, Henceforth Records. These recordings were made when the trio was on a US tour last year. I will spare you voluminous words of praise as I hope you will find them yourself after hearing this CD.
This trio, to me, is intense and exciting, with their technical chops matched by their exuberant passion. George Lewis, who wrote the liner notes, sees this in them, as well. I hope you enjoy listening to it.
The first impression one might gain from this extraordinarily bold music is that any stance of neutrality simply must go by the boards--both while you are hearing it, and long after. One cannot remain blandly pluralistic with the sounds of this trio coursing through the nervous system: Bass "walking" that sounds more like running; a "ride" cymbal that careens through city streets at twice the speed of sound; saxophone glossolalia working that jab, using ancient and postmodern Morse codes.
The music of Ellis, Valsamis, and Eneidi--how is it possible? Because empathy is always present when human beings get together. The music serves as an anthem for this crucial aspect of the human condition, the "with-feeling" that draws us in as participant observers--not so much in an academic sense, but as listeners who become critically invested in the same work that these improvisors, like all human beings, draw upon for survival: games of chance, trompes d'oreille, reliance on intuition, sudden shifts of attention, goal-setting, predictions fulfilled or disconfirmed, and the vital discovery of form.
With its jump cuts, fast breaks, and slam-dunks, its combination of high intensity and utter relaxation, this radically collective music takes charge of consciousness, letting you know that it could go on indefinitely. More often than not, however, the sound suddenly comes to an arbitrated (but not arbitrary) ending. Retrospectively, it all makes sense, but in the moment, trust is one's only guide, and the musicians absolutely refuse to leave us forlorn.
George E. Lewis
New York City, February 2005
Sound on Survival Biographies
Marco Eneidi At the forefront of creative jazz for more than twenty years, Marco Eneidi's horn playing has been described as fierce and uncompromising, yet natural. Rooted in the language of major influence Jimmy Lyons, his style is marked by a sophisticated approach to tonality and phrasing, shifting from silence to full-tilt din and back again. His compositions invent challenging variations on the jazz canon (blues, swing, bop), while moving far beyond traditional limits.
Lisle Ellis Lisle Ellis's work as a bassist over the past thirty years has placed him at the front of legendary contemporary improvising musicians. Ellis's numerous recordings for international labels such as "Black Saint," "DIW," and "hat Art" attests to the strength of his art. He has played in a multitude of world wide performances with leading individuals including Peter Brötzmann, Marilyn Crispell, Dave Douglas, and Myra Melford, as well as being a member of visionary groups such as The Cecil Taylor Unit, the Paul Bley Trio, and the Glenn Spearman Double Trio. His unique expression, which critic Ben Watson described as "funky and free sensuality", can be heard on Ellis's current projects: What We Live with Lawrence Ochs and Donald Robinson; Sound On Survival with Marco Eneidi and Peter Valsamis; REV with Robinson and Swedish saxophonist Biggi Vinkeloe; duos with pianists Paul Plimley and Mike Wofford.
Another aspect to Ellis's recent work that is gaining more and more attention are his explorations of computer music, including his electronic performances with George Lewis, Joelle Leandre, Gerry Hemingway, Pamela Z and Haco. Ellis currently lives in New York City.
Peter Valsamis Born in Montreal, Valsamis began playing the piano at the age of six, but soon moved to the drums. Concurrently, he developed a sensitivity to sound that drew him to record and manipulate sound on tape. Now based in Oakland, California, Valsamis continues to nurture a wide range of interests. As a drummer, he has performed in Europe, Asia, and North America, performing with Malcolm Goldstein, Steve Lacy, and Don Preston. He has been Artist-in-Residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts and has recent CD releases with pianist Dana Reason and Trance Mission. Valsamis's electro-acoustic compositions include a full-length soundtrack for the award winning experimental film re: Cycle by Ken Doolittle. Valsamis received his MFA in Electronic Music and Recording Media from Mills College. While at Mills, he studied with Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Curran, William Winant, and Leo Smith. Valsamis received the prestigious Hellman Scholarship in Performance in 1998 and 1999.
Trio's website: www.soundonsurvival.com
Sound on survival, dont Philippe Elhem a chroniqué un précédent disque axé sur le blues (Américan roadwork cimp 312 in Improjazz 116) a regroupé sur ce cd trois morceaux de neuf à dix-huit minutes enregistrés à Amherst et un quatrième de quarante minutes, joué à Philadelphie. Par sa conception orientée du temps et des rôles des instruments, cette musique appartient au jazz. Peter Valsamis, certainement le plus mélodiste du trio, bat avec une incisive légèreté, selon des principes proches de ceux du bop, assurant sur les cymbales une continuité qu’il renouvelle par des roulements tendus et des points de détente sur les toms. Eneidi (cf entretien in Improjazz 122 et 123) étage des phrases plutôt courtes, elles-même découpées en éléments plus courts, dans lesquelles on reconnaît l’influence d’Ornette Coleman. Il travaille en classique, à l’intérieur du langage saxophonistique, et semble reprendre son jeu à zéro à chaque intervention. Refusant la place de soliste que la structure du groupe lui offre, il apparaît plutôt comme une émanation des autres. Jouant comme si il était seul à entendre leur musique, il intervient à des intervalles de temps très variables, au gré d’une rêverie intime. Lisle Ellis joue des notes très précises dans leur attaque, leur hauteur et leur sonorité, des notes insistantes, courtes et sans glissando. Le trio reprend librement des traditions de jeu du jazz, produisant une musique free très concentrée mais sans tension et qui ne recherche ni climax libératoire ni relâchement. Les trois musiciens installent un climat d’heureuse concentration, une exubérance calme sans forme préétablie mais dotée d’une organisation excentrique qui ne montre un peu de faiblesse que sur le défi des quarante minutes du dernier morceau, encore peut-on y voir l’esquisse de nouvelles solutions à formuler pour prolonger encore leur musique.
- Noel Tachet, Improjazz France
Non ci sono pretese di neutralità in queste improvvisazioni tratte da due concerti del trio Sound On Survival: il contrabbasso di Lisle Ellis, la batteria di Peter Valsamis e il sax alto di Marco Eneidi prendono subito possesso dello spazio acustico e non resta altro che seguirli o spegnere, non ci sono alternative.
Il dialogo dei tre è di un´empatia assoluta, frutto di una pratica dell´improvvisazione vecchia di decenni. Si conoscono a memoria e vanno tutti nella stessa direzione in qualunque momento, costruendo strutture in cui ognuno dei musicisti ha spazio per esprimersi al meglio.
Il sassofono di Marco Eneidi, che si ricollega idealmente al free di Jimmy Lyons, riversa cascate di adrenalina ed i suoi accompagnatori hanno la forza per affrontare tale energia. Il contrabbasso suona possente, la batteria incalzante: una continua spinta in avanti sostenuta da idee che spuntano all´istante, tratte da un bagaglio culturale che ha le radici nella New Thing degli anni '60.
Il disco dura quasi settantotto minuti, ben registrati e soprattutto compatti. Un omaggio alla musica improvvisata che è anche una conferma di come questa sia ancora più attuale che mai.
- Cosimo Parisi, Musicboom
Der freieste, abstrakteste verinnerlichte Ausdruck intimer, wilder, Energiegeladener Musik ist vor allem im Jazz zu finden, mal von Dixieland und anderen Festgefahrenheiten abgesehen. Da werden Instrumente zu Geliebten und die intensive Auseinandersetzung mit kraftvoller, eigenwilliger Komposition und lyrischer bis expressiver Improvisation kennt keine Grenzen.
Lisle Ellis streichelt und zupft den akustischen Bass, Marco Eneidi bläst das Alt-Saxophon, Peter Valsamis bearbeitet unentwegt die Felle seines Schlagzeugs. Das Trio arbeitet sich mit emotionaler, begnadeter Spiellust und, völlig ausgeliefert an die plötzliche Vitalität und hinreißende Kraft ihrer selbst gespielten Songs, großer technischer Finesse leidenschaftlich durch diese musikalische Tiefe. Das geht in heißen Momenten bis in freitonalen Free Jazz, wo das Trio losgelöst die wildesten und dennoch erstaunlich logischen Passagen spielt, was sie selbst bewusst sicher nicht steuern, sondern organisch fühlen und mit technischem Geschick wiederzugeben in der Lage sind. Erregte Lautstärke und melancholische Stille liegen hier ganz dicht. Das Geflecht der Harmonien und die Klarheit der instrumentalen Töne verbinden das rasante Trio im Spiel sehr eng, verwachsen sie zu einer spirituellen Einheit.
Und dennoch, hört man konzentriert dem einzelnen Instrument zu, zeigt sich die virtuose und eigenständige melodische Kraft, bei allen drei Instrumenten. Das fundamentale Spiel reizt die Themen weit und intensiv aus. Es funktioniert im Einzelnen und im Ganzen. Die 3 ersten Stücke sind in Amherst mitgeschnitten worden, Track 4 in Philadelphia. Die zusammen 77 Minuten zeigen ein sensibles Trio, dessen Soli und Gemeinklang mehr Offenheit und Intimität präsentieren, als das in der Rockmusik gemacht wird und vielleicht überhaupt möglich ist. Die kompromisslose Ausgeliefertheit an die Musik, Sucht und Lust zugleich, und das immerwährende Spiel bringen die Musiker intellektuell und emotional weiter und tiefer in Musik hinein, als Musiker aus den meisten anderen Lagern dies überhaupt können und jemals durch eigenes Spiel erfahren. Jazz ist die intensivste Hingabe. (Klassik und Rock haben selbstverständlich ebenso ihre grandiosen Abgründe.)
Ellis, Eneidi und Valsamis beweisen mit ihrem Spiel keine technischen Besonderheiten, das vermittelt sich ganz nebenbei. Sie zeigen ein tiefes Gespür für und ihre Lust darauf, diesen befreiten Modern Jazz zu spielen. Und sicher sind sie hocherfreut, dass es Leute gibt, die im Publikum sitzen und ihnen mit ebensolcher leidenschaftlichen Hingabe folgen. Ebenso darüber, klar, dass es Fans gibt, die sich ihren begnadeten Jazz auf dieser CD kaufen, um irgendwo auf der Welt, sei es noch so fernab, diesem Ensemblespiel, diesem starken Widerstand gegen den allgemeinen kulturellen Verfall zu lauschen. Dazu hier meine unbedingte Empfehlung.
- Volkmar Mantei, Ragazzi
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 intact--the 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.
- Derek Taylor, All About Jazz
Hot on the heels of American Roadwork comes another superb offering from Marco Eneidi, Lisle Ellis and Peter Valsamis, and a fine way it is too to inaugurate Bonnie Wright's new Henceforth label (offerings are forthcoming from Gunda Gottschalk, Ute Volker and Peter Jacquemyn). Whereas American Roadwork was a studio date recorded in CIMP's Spirit Room, Live is very much that, two sets recorded five days apart in May last year in Amherst and Philadelphia. Eneidi's awesome alto chops are once more very much in evidence - I like to think his former teacher Jimmy Lyons would be proud of his exuberant post-bop yelps: the lineage back to Bird via Lyons and Dolphy couldn't be clearer - and bassist Ellis and drummer Valsamis are just as impressive, and on this form would give Dominic Duval and Jay Rosen a run for their money as free jazz's most agile rhythm section. Both Eneidi and Ellis are prolix players, but even so one gets the impression that not one of their thousands, maybe millions, of notes is out of place. Less convincing is Ellis's use of electronics, not because it's incompetent or poorly executed (it isn't: Ellis has been making good use of his software in recent years), simply because it sounds rather out of place on what is essentially a bop rollercoaster.
- Paris Transatlantic Magazine
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.
- Edward Kane, JazzReview.com
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.
- Michael Rosenstein, One Final Note
thanks a bunch for the great CD. i will play the dickens out of it here at radio station kwva, eugene, oregon: the seat of anarchy in the pacfic northwest! keep us in mind when you produce/create the out stuff. thanks for the great music. honored to play it
- James Cervantes, Jazz Format Director, KWVA
Sound on Survival, Live, Henceforth Records. Free jazz by altoist Marco Eneidi, bassist Lisle Ellis & drummer Peter Valsamis, from two concerts just prior to heading to the Spirit Room to record American Roadwork (CIMP). It's intensely rhythmic music - even Eneidi treats the saxophone as almost a pulse generator, the source of abruptly fired-off impulses with a surprisingly regular rhythm (though he uses that regularity to create syncopation effects too). The CD combines music from concerts in Amherst (mostly head-on intensity) & Philadelphia (a change of pace - after 13 minutes it cools off to a long bass/drums episode with Ellis throwing in some electronics, & only really heats up again right at the end). ***1/2
- Don't Explain
Lisle Ellis on bass, Marco Eneidi on sax and Peter Valsamis on drums. Three guys, four improvisations. That ought to be enough to either entice or drive away most of my readers.
Those of you who stuck around will be happy to know that while these pieces are improvised, they do have structure and form. These songs adhere to principles set down by the musicians--consciously or subconsciously, though I'd bet the former. I'm not entirely sure what these principles might be, but I can here more than mere personal familiarity in this music.
These songs explode with life and vibrant ideas. As the liners say. "...more often than not...the songs come to an arbitrated (not arbitrary) ending." Exactly. All tangents aside, these men know what they're doing and, more importantly, where they're going.
Not that this disc is going to make a believer out of someone who eschews improvisation. Hardly. But this is improvisation of the highest order, the type that inspires on repeat listens just as much (if not more) than the first.
- Aiding and Abetting