Marci Eneidi, Elsewhere on CD

Marco Eneidi’s trio, Shattered, performs one set tonight (Sept. 30) at the Hemlock Tavern (San Francisco). Details here.

Free-jazz saxophonist Marco Eneidi turns out to have played in a few places I didn’t expect. Specifically, on a few interesting CDs that came out in recent years.

I thought about this after reviewing the new CD out on the NoBusiness label.  (See yesterday.)  So, I did a search on Stef’s Free Jazz blog, a go-to site for album reviews in this genre. So while there’s nothing comprehensive or even recent about this list, it’s interesting that I’ve let this much of Eneidi’s music pass me by.

Here’s the tally. Each album title links to the appropriate review on Free Jazz.

1. Peter Kowald & Laurence Petit-Jouvet – Off The Road (RogueArt, 2007)
Fruits from Kowald’s 2000 trip to America. I already own three albums that sprang from the Bay Area leg: Ghetto Calypso (Not Two, 2006), Illuminations (Rastascan, 2003), and Mirrors – Broken but No Dust (Balance Point Acoustics, 2001).

Kowald’s passing was deeply felt by the Bay Area’s creative music community, as he was a friend to many. In fact, Mirrors, a session of bass duets, is the first album released by Damon Smith on his Balance Point Acoustics label. It’s out of print but available on eMusic.

In addition to Kowald’s great bass playing on those CDs, you get occasional bursts of his throat singing. I have to admit I have a limited tolerance for throat singing, but it’s amazing to hear in small doses, and he blends it into the group mix quite well.

RogueArt has gone a step further by putting two DVDs into this package: a road diary and a live performance, including sessions with Chicago and New York greats. It was quite a tour around the U.S. that Kowald made, and it’s nice to see it was so heavily documented.

2. Lisle Ellis – Sucker Punch Requiem (Henceforth, 2008)
Henceforth is a San Diego label that I’ve been keeping tabs on — so, technically, I did know Eneidi is on this one. It’s an homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Henceforth’s site has a detailed explanation of what that means.

Bassist Ellis is another Bay Area expatriate and a longtime collaborator of Eneidi’s. For a couple of years, Eneidi organized memorial concerts for Glenn Spearman, a great Bay Area saxophonist who’d recently passed away, and I remember Ellis doing a solo performance at one of them. In a particularly touching moment, Ellis used a sample of Spearman’s playing to close out one improvisation.

Ellis and Eneidi were on Henceforth’s first CD, by the way, with their working trio Sound on Survival. It’s good stuff.

3. The Nu Band – The Dope And The Ghost (Not Two, 2007)
I remember getting The Nu Band’s first CD at KZSU in 2002. Great stuff, sent to us courtesy of Lou Grassi, the band’s drummer, who was kind enough to supply college radio with quite a bit of east-coast jazz over the years.

What I didn’t expect was that The Nu Band would continue playing over the years. It’s a very pleasant surprise to note that they’ve now got at least five albums out. Sustaining a band in this genre for that long is quite an achievement, especially given the band’s all-star nature: Grassi (drums), Roy Campbell (trumpet), Joe Fonda (bass), and Mark Whitecage (sax) — all busy guys.

They’ve had stuff out on the Porter, NoBusiness, and Clean Feed labels, and, as referenced here, the Not Two label as well. You’ll find more about them, and audio samples, on Grassi’s “New Projects” page.

Anyway, this album was recorded live in Eneidi’s hometown of Vienna, and he sits in for one 20-minute track. Yes!

Hell-Bent for Saxophone Glory

Marco Eneidi plays in the Bay Area Sept. 29 and 30 … see dates at the bottom of this post.

He also played on Sept. 28, but I wasn’t able to get this posted before then. Bummer.

Vinny Golia, Marco Eneidi, Lisa Mezzacappa, Vijay AndersonHell-Bent in the Pacific (NoBusiness, 2012)

Marco Eneidi‘s occasional trips back to the Bay Area are becoming a regular occurrance, so it’s nice that this time, he’s got some product to hawk at his shows, in the form of this terrific CD.

He’ll be playing the Bay Area throughout this coming weekend (the dates are listed further down).

A free-jazz saxophonist in the Jimmy Lyons mold, Eneidi lived here for nine years before relocating to Vienna in 2004, where he’s run weekly jam sessions under the auspices of The Neu New York/Vienna Institute of Improvised Music.  (See also: ‘Couple other posts from 2009 here and here, and a 2010 album review.)

This particular trip reunites him with Lisa Mezzacappa on bass and Vijay Anderson on drums. Together, they form what’s now been dubbed an “official” trio, called Shattered.

They’re on this CD, as is saxophonist Vinny Golia, from Los Angeles. Golia gets listed first on the CD’s spine — but really, this is one of those equal-collaboration arrangements, an improvised jazz session with equally contributed parts.

All four musicians have played together in various combinations. Eneidi used to jam weekly with Anderson. Anderson and Mezzacappa are in the quartet Go-Go Fightmaster and/or Bait and Switch (same personnel, different purposes). Mezzacappa and Golia play duets on Golia’s recent album, The Ethnic Project (which I keep meaning to review here; it’s a nifty concept).

Getting back to Hell-Bent in the Pacific — it’s an album full of life and energy. Eneidi sounds great going for the energy-jazz thing, with his barking, clipped sax grooving through ecstatic bursts. His alto sax also sounds songlike and toneful during slower passages — the CD was very well recorded at Oakland’s New, Improved Records — making for some luscious passages on tracks like “Everything Imaginable Can Be Dreamed” or the dark forest of “Pendulum.”

I don’t mean to make the CD sound like Eneidi’s show; the bass and drum work, such as a terrific duet opening “Catholic Cornstocking Smut-Hound,” make for some of the best moments on the album. And Vinny Golia puts in some vital contributions, which goes without saying. But it’s great to hear long doses of Eneidi — not just the rapid-fire free-jazz moments, but the more easygoing passages too, where you get a good sense of the blues and jazz history layered into his improvising.

Among the tracks that are less obvious — those that you might miss on a first listen — I was really taken by “Prisoner of a Gaudy and Unlivable Present,” which I think consists of just the Shattered trio.  It starts in a calm place, Eneidi in a conversational mode with bass and drums in a low-key banter. As the music starts building, Eneidi ups the flow just slightly, while Anderson moves to a light snare patter, then into tom rolls and more furious cymbals. After about four minutes, Eneidi is rising to a squall on sax — and the trio kicks back down to a quiet place, almost a misty blues. It all ends with a three-minute cooldown, back in that conversational zone.

Marco Eneidi dates:

  • Fri. Sept. 28 @ Berkeley Arts Festival — Shattered (trio of Eneidi, Mezzacappa, Anderson) playing  two sets starting at 8:00 p.m.
  • Sat. Sept 29 @ Omiiroo gallery (400 14th St., Oakland) — Eneidi duet with Marshall Trammell (drums), 6:00 p.m.

Surplus 1980: Update

Moe! Staiano is raising funds to do a 10″ vinyl release by his band, Surplus 1980.

This is the same 10″ mentioned previously, when I’d stopped by his Amoeba Records in-store appearance. It would feature seven songs.

The Kickstarter project Moe has launched asks for a modest $3,000 to produce two colored versions of the 10″ along with corresponding CDs.

Rewards range from the obvious (vinyl and CDs) to a live concert of the band, at your beck and call within 75 miles of Oakland.

WordPress is “disappearing” my attempts to embed the Kickstarter video, so you’ll have to go over there yourself to see Moe’s depictions of the musicians on the album, including players of percussion, keyboards, oboe, and clarinet. As with the first Surplus 1980 record, Moe is taking advantage of the local music ecosystem to build something beyond your average rock band.

New Voices from Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd

This week, the latest collaboration of Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd takes to the stage in New York. It’s called “Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project,” and it’s premiering Sept. 19-22 at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse in New York.

That’s a long way from home for me, so I’ll miss the show. But it’s exciting to know that Iyer’s music and Ladd’s poetry have come together again.

Their first collaboration, In What Language? (Pi, 2003) blew me away. It was a song cycle (a concept album without a storyline) about traveling and the globalized society. Its settings were gargantuan, anonymous airports whose comfortable fluorescent-lit lounges hid Kafkaesque nests; its characters, black- and brown-skinned people of varying backgrounds and purposes.

Iyer and Ladd’s vision of this modern crossroads bustles with intensity and excitement, but also with sadness and isolation and dread. Generous sprinklings of electronics, mixed with acoustic jazz, gave the album a 21st-century feel, a kinetic global village, with the earth’s many corners represented by vocalists ranging from polished singers to downtrodden amateur speakers in a panoply of accents. Ladd’s frequent appearances provide a kind of home base, or a familiar hub.

It was timely and honest and a little big angry — and it was inspired by an incident that happened before 9/11. When the album arrived two years later, the wound was still fresh and the United States still thick with a lingering dread as the overfed cowboy fantasies of the patriotically correct triumphed over freedom and reason. The political climate primed the album with a fresh intensity. Yet the album, while clearly shouting out, comes across as less a protest and more a catharsis, an expression of confusion, fear, and wonder over a societal tilt still in motion.

My favorite moment on the album comes near the end, during “The Color of My Circumference IV,” a defiant piece with Ladd ricocheting madly against Trevor Holder’s propulsive drumming and Iyer’s bright, fierce piano chords of glass and steel: “From under an officer’s boot in Union Square / I once saw the curve of the earth. Lines shot out / Around the globe from where my eye met the street…”

Their next project was Still Life With Commentator (Savoy, 2007), a set of musings about TV, the news, and the Web and how it all affects us. More observational than judgmental, Still Life reflected the uncertainty stirred up by the sudden, undirected evolution of media — both the drunkard’s walk of the blogosphere and the tight-shut orbit of Fox News. It’s the opening salvo in what should be an ongoing debate about the nature of media and even of information.

I got to see Still Live performed at Stanford (with less elaborate staging than the New York version) and enjoyed it. An R&B turn during “John Stewart on Crossfire,” where the band sang the refrain, “Please stop / You’re hurting America,” felt a little awkward, and the topic overall didn’t feel as challenging as on In What Language — probably because personal tragedy and misery was less of a factor. But I did like it, and I think the CD is a good listen — and I think both projects presented topic that are important for all of us, particularly in the United States, to discuss and digest.

With Holding It Down, Iyer and Ladd again tap contemporary events, this time focusing on the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq. Again, no immediate answers, just a framing of the questions.

Maybe. That’s guesswork on my part. Here’s the official word, from a Harlem Stage brochure:

Holding It Down is a thought-provoking, sometimes harrowing, and ultimately exhilarating combination of music, poetry and song, woven from the actual dreams of young American veterans of color of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Poet Mike Ladd’s lyric adaptiations juxtaposed by the first-person poetic contributions of U.S. veterans Maurice Decaul and Lynn Hill,along with Vijay Iyer’s wide-ranging original music and poignant video explores veterans’ internal battle with the psychological remnants of war, and their struggles to achieve dignity in an atmosphere of public indifference and widespread disillusionment.

Personnel for the show:

  • Vijay Iyer (piano, laptop)
  • Mike Ladd (poetry, vocals, sampler, analog synthesizer)
  • Maurice Decaul (poetry)
  • Lynn Hill (poetry)
  • Guillermo E. Brown (vocals, electronics)
  • Liberty Ellman (guitar)
  • Okkyung Lee (cello)
  • Kassa Overall (percussion)
  • Latasha N. Nevada Diggs (vocals, live electronic processing)

If you happen to see it, I’d love to hear what you thought.

9 9 9

Roscoe Mitchell wrote a piece for solo viola, apparently.

It’s called “9/9/09,” and it was performed as part of an April Yoshi’s concert that featured a variety of Mitchell’s works.

The piece is quite abstract and full of what I suppose are microtones — they sound like purposefully sour notes.

I have to admit, I’m not sure I’m on the same page with the composition, so to speak. The first half sort of drifts past my ears. I’m able to get into the rhythms that appear after the midpoint — the faster tempo in the middle helps me get more into tracing the swing of the rhythm rather than trying to decode the harmonies.

That’s my amateur’s opinion, anyway. I’m sure there’s a lot I’m missing.

The violist, Nils Bultmann, is also part of an amusing-sounding viola night coming up Oct. 29 at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley.

Another Tim Berne Permutation

It’s called Sun of Goldfinger, and it’s actually David Torn‘s band, not Tim Berne‘s. They apparently played in Denver on Sept. 15.

It’s a trio of Torn, Berne, and drummer Ches Smith. That’s 50% of Torn’s band, Prezens, plus 50% of Berne’s band, Snakeoil.

As Torn explains in Westword Music, it’s like Prezens without the keyboard, with the guitar as the lone chordal instrument (to the extent that you can discern chords in the sound).

The result is a lot like Prezens. Torn blasts his new-age-gone-evil guitar sounds: aluminum soundwalls and squeals, sci-fi sonic blasts. Berne careens and screeches in a way that blends into the mix — although he does take a jazzy turn occasionally; see around the 15:00 mark in the video below, after which they even get into a near-Calypso groove. Smith’s drumming is the element that keeps the whole assembly tied to earth, grounding it in aggressive fills and improvising.

Not-quite-related: I’ve been remiss in not mentioning the massive Tim Berne Q&A published by The Village Voice. It’s part of a series of Q&As that’s been fantastic; I especially liked the Ches Smith edition.

h/t: @screwgunrecords.

New Monsters

I like that Steve Horowitz’s band, New Monsters, has a couple of gigs coming up.  It’s a jazz jazz band, and while all ensembles strengthen as they do more live shows, jazz feels like it would get even more benefit.

They’re playing Saturday, Sep. 15 (tonight!) at Jazzschool in Berkeley ….. and Sunday, Sept. 23, at Bird & Beckett Books in a quiet corner of San Francisco.

(For more about Bird & Beckett, see here.)

I’ve mentioned them before, here. New Monsters is a mix of traditional jazz structure; free-jazz soloing and harmony ideas; and the goofy sense of humor of composer Dan Plonsey. The band’s leader is actually Horowitz, the bassist, but Plonsey writes the tunes. Exactly what that means, I don’t know. Maybe it means everything gets blamed on Horowitz, or maybe it means he keeps Plonsey locked in a closet for marathon songwriting sessions.

It’s not straight straight jazz, as you can tell from Scott Looney‘s inside-the-piano intro on “Miracle Melancholy.” And Plonsey’s writing is always a few steps away from the jazz mainstream. The songs here are chipper and mellifluous, quite accessible, but in place of jazz-sounding themes, they’ve often got a sound closer to really complex children’s music. It’s fun without being pandering.

You can sample their self-titled album at Posi-Tone Records or on eMusic (you don’t have to be a subscriber). While you’re at it, you can also get a dose of Horowitz and Plonsey’s sense of humor by listening to them in The Instant Composers Group, which includes Dave Barrett of Splatter Trio and really deserves a writeup of its own.

Flanked by Drummers

1. Just because you think of something doesn’t mean you should blog it.

2. Oh, what the heck.

There is no reason to expect two bands to sound the same just because they use the same instrumentation. Rock music makes that obvious. The raw materials that go into steel girders can also be used to produce silverware.

Even so, I recently found myself contrasting the John Lurie National Orchestra with the Larry Ochs Sax and Drumming Core. Both groups consist of one saxophone and two drummers — with the drummers being essential to the sound. But the two bands travel towards different destinations.

Lurie’s album, Men With Sticks, consists of three improvisations. I came across this one when it was released in 1993, and while I’d become a fan of the Lounge Lizards, I was scared off by the 36-minute span of the opening track, “If I Sleep the Plane Will Crash.” Loved the title, feared the scope. About a decade later, I snatched up the album and enjoyed it immensely.

Calvin Weston and Billy Martin, two huge names in adventurous mainstream jazz, flank Lurie’s sax. Their drums meld into one determined, driving groove, full of tiny details and subrhythms, while Lurie flutters and buzzes on his sax. It’s one big, joyous jam, and it doesn’t slow down for quite some time.

Eventually, Lurie sits out, and you suddenly realize just how much is going on under the surface of that beat. Lots of tiny changes and polyrhythms get spat out from the drums.

This album gives me the same impression I got with Pat Metheny’s Zero Tolerance for Silence, namely, that the first track is the project, and the rest of the album is like a B-side. Two shorter tracks round out the album, and while they do tread new ground — one starts with a quieter, relaxed attitude, for example — you get the feeling that the statement has already been made.

Sax and Drumming Core has a different purpose altogether. (Which I knew going into this exercise, and maybe that’s coloring my listening. I’ve seen this band at least twice and heard all three of their albums — and reviewed the most recent one, Stone Shift, here.)

Sax and Drumming Core is highly improvised, but it plays off of Ochs’ compositions. The band also covers a lot of ground — fast versus loud versus quiet versus slow. Men with Sticks feels like an idea put down on record. Sax and Drumming Core is more calculated, a band assembled for the creation of a body of work.

Drummers Scott Amendola and Donald Robinson are held apart, each drum in one speaker, to highlight the contrasts in their styles, and the visual experience of watching them work separately was a crucial part of their live sets.

Their first album, The Neon Truth (Black Saint, 2002), opens with “Wrong Right Wrong,” a spiky piece where the melody is intentionally off-putting; it’s aggressive and ugly, in a good way. The drums stab out at their own will, behaving as separated but symbiotic entities, composers in their own right.

They’re given a grand showcase in “Finn Crosses Mars,” an energetic, 11-minute piece that includes a spirited drum duet, nice and loud. I also love the subtle space created in “Xanic Rides Again,” where Ochs burbles relatively calmly, surrounded by ethereal cymbals played like gongs, or by the careful patter of drum brushes, applied sparely.

I guess the final analysis is that I hadn’t listened to either of these albums in a while and wanted to hear them again. I like them both. Lurie’s National Orchestra makes for simpler listening; it demands less concentration, although concentration certainly gets rewarded as you peer into the Weston/Martin groove. But Sax and Drumming Core feels to me like a richer brew, full of fresh challenges.

(For more: read the anecdote about someone calling the cops on Sax and Drumming Core.)

Aaron Bennett’s Electro-Magnetic Improv

Aaron Bennett has revived his improvising, mid-sized ensemble, the Electro-Magnetic Trans-Personal Orchestra, as I’d mentioned previously.

The group is set to perform this Thursday, Sept. 13 at Meridian Gallery (535 Powell St., San Francisco).

When you check out the group’s 2002 album on Bandcamp, you’ll hear what’s clearly an improvising ensemble, but one that operates within an overall structure. I’ve been curious about how the EMTPO operates, and about the fact that Bennett has revived the concept several years after its most recent performance.

So I e-mailed Aaron a few questions, which he’s graciously answered. The exchange is below. All italics are added by me, to emphasize the parts that are that cool.

Q: Does the group improvise on their own, or are they working from a framework you provide? What kind of framework?

AB:  “The group uses a framework I devised and provide to the musicians. It is a framework where in each section, the musician is given one of four types of instruction. Which are as follows: 1. A specific rhythmic phrase (leaving the musician to come up with the pitch material), 2. specific pitches (leaving the musician to improvise the rhythmic element), 3. a symbol indicating to freely improvise, and 4. traditional notation.

“Each section (or measure) typically has most of the musicians improvising one aspect of the music (rhythm or melody), while a smaller group is freely improvising. The musicians who are not freely improvising are repeating a set of musical phrases.

“This enables me have an improvising ensemble where I can encourage a form of continuity within the piece and at the same time utilize the improvisation skills of the musician (and I have been lucky enough to have a great set of improvisers in the ensemble). For example, I may have the same rhythmic phrase passed between sets of musicians in different parts of the composition, as each musician is improvising at least one element of the material, in this case, the melody, there is both continuity and change each time the phrase is heard in the piece.

“Also, it was my intention to have the music have an element of stasis within a section along with a few elements of action. The idea was to mimic the “physical world” in a way.

“When you stand at a street corner observing the landscape you are in, or any lively landscape, there are a number of interesting elements which stay put and therefore fall to the background of your consciousness, and a number which draw in your attention and are in the forefront of your mind or focus. In these compositions, the freely improvising musician is the latter and the others are the former. But the interesting part, is that in either of these scenarios, my music, or the “physical world”, it is often the landscape, the parts that you are not actively focused on, which define the entire feeling and experience of the event and certainly effect in a big way what the active element is and means. And so I wanted to create an improvised music gave the listener a trip through a variety of these landscapes, like walking through city streets and observing what is going on around you.”

Q: What made you decide to bring the idea back? What’s changed about the concept since 2000?

AB: “What first made me decide to bring it back was a gig at CNMAT, where I was given carte blanche to do what I wished, and I thought that would be a perfect setting for having a group do these types of compositions. I ended up with an instrumentation that was roughly half brass/woodwinds and half strings. I really enjoyed the mix of timbres that brought out. Nothing has changed about the concept beyond that.

“From that show an opportunity to play at the Berkeley Arts Festival materialized, and then a few others. Also Joe Lasqo, a fantastic pianist and composer living in San Francisco, who is now in the group, has been very encouraging and inspiring. And lastly, (and this is also what kept me pursuing shows for the group back in 2000), is the amazing group of musicians I keep getting lucky enough to have play in the ensemble.”

Q: Any other shows planned?

AB: “We currently have no other shows planned. But hoping to have some more soon!”

(Thanks to Aaron Bennett for his time. The EMPTO show is part of Next Now, the Meridian Gallery series highlighting improvised music. Also on the bill for Thursday are Mika Pontecorvo’s Cartoon Justice (new emergent composition from live sonic architecture) and Key West (free jazz for sax, drums, and alternative instruments).)

Electric Ascension Went Well

… and ROVA has some photos of it up on Facebook.

The Kickstarter-funded filming of the Guelph Jazz Festival concert (reference here) also went as planned — an ambitious five-camera shoot assembled in relatively short time.

A Kickstarter update posted Monday by Larry Ochs (the “O” in ROVA, and the group’s manager) explains it all. Sounds like it was an amazing show.

Ochs brings up something I hadn’t considered: With “Electric Ascension” — a modernized realization of John Coltrane’s epic, “Ascension” — having already been released on CD, in 2003, would a second concert recording be redundant? Especially considering the band is almost entirely the same — minus Otomo Yoshihide and Donald Robinson, who are replaced by Rob Mazurek and Hamid Drake?

The final answer was No, Ochs writes: “It had its own arc, its own storyline.” Which makes sense, considering the improvisatory nature of the piece and even the 10-year span between recordings. I’d probably share Ochs’ trepidation if I were helping present the concert, but from a few thousand miles away, it was pretty easy to lean back and say “It’ll be great!”

Can’t wait to see and hear the results.