More Words for Marco Eneidi

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©2016 Michael Wilderman

The December issue of online magazine Point of Departure includes a deeply researched bio of Marco Eneidi, the alto saxophonist who passed away earlier this year.

Written by Pierre Crépon, the article, titled “Contrary Motion,” draws upon a wealth of sources, including interviews (some unpublished) and magazine articles. He also taps a few postgraduate theses, including Eneidi’s own Mills College master’s thesis, “Aeneidio Phonics.” And a couple of films are listed as well — one of them being Stanley J. Zappa’s “Get Out,” footage for which can be seen on YouTube.

In Crépon’s words, the article is “an attempt, by no means exhaustive, to retrieve something of the forward motion which seemed to propel Eneidi’s creative work.” It’s a fine remembrance for an artist who was so often overlooked by the music world. Thanks, Pierre.

This calls for another shot of Marco’s more recent work. Here he is in a 2012 trio with William Parker (bass), and Joe Morris (guitar).

RIP Marco Eneidi

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Marco Eneidi at Amati Jazz Club, January 2016. Detail from a photo by “Mike in Mexico

(UPDATE:  Point of Departure has published a thorough Marco Eneidi bio, written by Pierre Crépon. Find it here.)

I was saddened to learn that Marco Eneidi passed away earlier this week. I don’t know the circumstances, but he apparently did not make it to San Francisco for the aforementioned concert on May 18.

Marco was a tornado on the alto sax, using a nimble and aggressive approach to craft persuasive, emotional stories. Jimmy Lyons is the commonly referenced touchpoint, and like Lyons, Marco did play with Cecil Taylor. He also recorded with Peter Brotzmann, William Parker, Bill Dixon, and a host of other greats. Though he hadn’t lived in the Bay Area for more than a decade, Marco still felt like part of the scene here, at least to me. He’ll be missed.

In honor of Marco, a few random treats from the web:

Here’s a gem: a previously unreleased session that includes Marco on alto sax alongside his brother-in-arms Glenn Spearman on tenor. It’s from 1997, the year before Spearman was prematurely taken away from us, and it was posted the other day by bassist George Cremaschi.


The trio Sound on Survival, which teamed Marco with drummer Peter Valsamis and bassist Lisle Ellis, is a must-hear. Their album on Henceforth Records — with Eneidi,  — is worth seeking out; they also released American Roadwork, following a marathon U.S. tour, on the CIMP label. And here’s a video snippet, with Marco in prime form.


All About Jazz has a couple of nice Eneidi interviews in its archives.

One, from 2005, was conducted by Taran Singh for Taran’s Free Jazz Hour. they discuss Eneidi’s move to Europe and the strategies and philosophies behind his playing. An excerpt:

Sonny Simmons taught me about long tones, about getting the sound a certain way, doing things a certain way, through breathing and meditation and Yoga. Jimmy showed me how to hold the horn the proper way, and Jimmy was about speed, that was his thing. He played Charlie Parker twice as fast and I try to play Jimmy Lyons twice as fast.

You can read the transcript here.

A second interview, by Anna Poczatek in 2013, is shorter but gives some details about the Cosmic Brujo Mutafuka band and Marco’s relationship with (and learnings from) Cecil Taylor.

Finally, Marco always had a special rapport with Bay Area drummer Donald Robinson. Here’s one of their final duo performances, from 2015. Rest in peace, Marco.

Marco Eneidi’s New Groove

Marco Eneidi performs May 18 at The Chapel (777 Valencia St., San Francisco) as part of the Patrick Wolff Sextet, opening for the Peter Brotzmann Quartet.

Cosmic Brujo Mutafuka (feat. Marco Eneidi) — Rhapsody of the Oppressed (Dimensional, 2016)

eneidi-CBMNow based in Mexico after a decade in Vienna, saxophonist Marco Eneidi has found two solid bandmates to help forward his cause of light-footed improvised jazz.

Itzam Cano is a terrifically energetic bassist, full of agile, cross-currented ideas. And Swiss drummer Gabriel Lauber brings the energy level and inventiveness that provides the right setting for Eneidi’s higher-energy improvisations. Formerly compatriots in the trio Zero Point, they’ve teamed up with Eneidi to form Cosmic Brujo Mutafuka, a trio (sometimes quartet) that’s simmered for a few years and has now put out their first album.

The bulk of Rhapsody of the Oppressed consists of some mid-length improvisations and a handful of miniatures, short declarations about a minute long. Many of the titles hint at the themes of social injustice and inequity that have pervaded Eneidi’s work and thinking over the years — a fire that still burns bright.

The album’s major statement is the 27-minute “Liberation.” It builds at a measured clip, first with springy bass and mournful quips from Eneidi as a warmup. After about 7 minutes, the band hits full stride, with drums at maximum energy and Eneidi pacing himself with a mid-to-high-energy discourse. It’s a well considered mini-epic with a slow middle segment that gives Cano a good chance to show off his improvisatory skills.

Often, Eneidi sets the overall energy level while the bass and drums run at high throttle. As an example, “Language Is Never Neutral” (a quote from Paolo Friere, whose work was based on the premise that education can’t be neutral either) plunges directly into an angry (or perhaps joyous) blast. But “A Child Walks in a Dream” feels more sublime but is really no less intense.

Certainly Eneidi takes center stage during much of the longer stretches. But when he goes through segments of short phrasing, it’s fun to listen to the music in a “negative space” way — hearing the bass and drums as the forefront, with the sax becoming background color. It probably works with all manner of trio music. But I like the effect in this particular case.

The miniatures on Rhapsody aren’t just trifles; they’re full statements that just happen to be short. “In Us Free” is another great bass showcase for Cano, springing and bouncing along with a colorful drum-kit accompaniment. “Exoridum” opens the album like an electrical burst, introducing the slashing, unfettered playing that dominates the album.

The group has also performed with guitarist Juan Castañón, as you can see here. But here’s a look at the trio, by themselves, in 2012.

 

Marco Eneidi Streamin’ 4

Marco Eneidi Streamin’ 4Panta Rei (ForTune, 2014)

eneidi-pantaMarco Eneidi’s alto sax is commonly associated with Jimmy Lyons’ fleet, liquid playing, so it’s unexpected to hear “Can’t Stop, Won’t Start” open Panta Rei with austere emotional wails. Eneidi and tenor saxophonist Marek Pospieszalski take turns overblowing in slow, ragged screams that sound like pure emotion unbounded — whether despair, anger, or even unfathomable joy is partly up to you.

That kind of raw-nerve emotion abounds on this quartet album, which pairs Eneidi with a trio of Polish musicians in a muscular improvised-jazz session. Things do heat up later. On tracks like “White Bats Yodelling” [sic] and “Arco M.,” we get a long, unadulterated doses of Eneidi spattering quick, fluid phrases in an exciting diatribe. “Made in Pole Land” gives us Eneidi’s slickest solo, followed by Pospieszalski demonstrating his own aggressive style.

Back on “Can’t Stop, Won’t Start,” Eneidi and Pospieszalski’s sparse choice of opening salvo provides us with a clearer introduction to Ksawery Wójciński on bass and Michał Trela on drums. Trela, in particular, plays a rapid-fire patter that arguably becomes the center of attention, a lead line behind the “rhythm” of the slow saxophone peals.

Though it’s an improvised record, Panta Rei walks along the border of spontaneous composition, with near-unison phrases materializing between the two saxophones, or from Pospieszalki and Wójciński on tenor sax and bass. It’s possible these are actually composed (although every track is credited to all four musicians) or communicated on-the-fly through hand signals — or maybe it’s a follow-the-leader exercise that the musicians consciously utilized.

In any event, these moments provide some guideposts in a couple of the album’s four long tracks, each clocking in at 9 to 18 minutes.

One sticking point for me — and it’s a small one — involves one of Eneidi’s go-to riffs: a fluttering between a root note and a scale progression, like a pianist keeping the thumb on one note while the other four fingers wander. It’s a trademark of his, but here, it seems to appear a little more often than it should. That I can even recognize this might simply be a sign that I’ve listened to that much of Eneidi’s music. Given the sparseness of his recorded output, that’s not a bad thing.

Having spent a decade in Vienna, Eneidi has now taken up residence in Mexico, where he’s been working with a trio called Cosmic Brujo Mutafuka — here’s some video of what they’re up to.

Marco Eneidi at Duende

I write about saxophonist Marco Eneidi frequently, maybe because I feel he’s underappreciated — and that, in turn, might be because of his relatively small recorded output.

But it’s also because he returns to the Bay Area from Vienna a little more than once a year, and it always feels like an event worth noting. His current visit includes only one show that I know of:  Thursday, June 27 at Duende (Oakland), as part of the trio Shattered:  Eneidi, Lisa Mezzacappa (bass), and Vijay Anderson (drums). It’s the same group that played last September.

Often compared to Jimmy Lyons for his speed and fluidity, Eneidi tends to improvise in long arcs, like a master monologuist. But where Evan Parker might do that with a fluttering, studious air, Eneidi gets more gutteral, spewing calculated musical ideas at high speed.

eneidi-cherryHere’s a segment from an album I’ve always favored: Cherry Box (Eremite, 2001).  It’s a trio with William Parker (bass) and Donald Robinson (drums), so Eneidi’s playing really stands out. In this segment, you’ll hear him use repeated phrases to build on an idea. After about a minute, he settles into focus on one idea, trailing a long convoluted thought like a Faulkner sentence — then he uses a suddenly mellow long tone to announce the shift into a new statement.

That’s Marco.

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.