Tone Collector
Jazzaway JAR CD012

Henceforth Records 101

With the universality of improv, or is it the globalization of jazz, specific places of origin or even of residence are becoming progressively less important.

Take these two hard-edged, co-op trio sessions for examples. Sound on Survival (SOS) is made up of two veterans and one young improviser, only one of whom originally comes from the Bay area where the band is based. Alto saxophonist Marco Eneidi has been a Bay area resident for years. Known for his work with the late saxophonist Glenn Spearman, he has moved to Germany since these tracks were recorded – in Philadelphia and Amherst, Mass., no less. His associates are Canadians from opposite sides of the country. Originally from Vancouver, bassist Lisle Ellis’s long-time Bay area residence hasn’t stopped him from ongoing collaboration with homeboy pianist Paul Plimley or reedist Joe McPhee of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Born in Montreal, drummer Peter Valsamis now too is a California improviser.

The younger Tone Collector (TC) trio members take New York and Stockholm as their common ground. The CD was recorded in the Swedish capital, three months after LIVE, but all three are New York residents. Originally from Tucson, tough tenor man Tony Malaby has made a name for himself in Mark Helias’ trio and his own band. From Greeley, Col., drummer Jeff Davis has a Masters in Jazz Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, works with many bands, most including Vancouver-born pianist Kris Davis. The only European, bassist Eivind Opsvik is an Oslo native, who worked all over Europe until his 1998 move to the Apple. Since then he’s played with the likes of guitarist Bill Frisell and keyboardist Craig Taborn.

Nationality aside, perhaps the largest difference between the nine tunes on TONE COLLECTOR and the four on LIVE is length and intensity. Old enough – at least in Ellis’ and Eneidi’s case – to have experienced Energy Music, SOS’s idea of a short tune is 9½ minutes. The magnificent “Philadelphia” that closes the disc, times in at a bit over 40 minutes. More tune-oriented TC’s pieces run from three minutes to a couple that are over 12, although “Waltz” and the subsequent “Waltz Coda” combined clock in at a 12:25.

Performance of those two is particularly instructive as well. That’s because the extended coda allows Malaby, to deconstruct Davis’s melody that would never be mistaken for a Strauss waltz in the first place. Like one of those John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins variations-on-a-theme, this postlude is longer than the initial tune. It also gives the reedist space to grind out nephritic tones which have similar capacities to Opsvik’s sul ponticello bowing. He goes on to add flattement and irregular pitches to double and triple tonguing that evolve on top of a constant bass ostinato and irregular thwacks from the drummer. Ending with a descending drum pattern, “Waltz Coda” is much different than the original line, most notable for a Stan Getz-like buoyancy from Malaby as he moves in double counterpoint with harmonic bass lines.

SOS display similar cohesion on the more than 18 minutes of “Amherst 1”. Sustained by savage coloration from Ellis’ bass and drum slap shots from Valsamis, the piece soon opens up with tumultuous, euphoric runs from Eneidi with plenty of torque. After the bassist relaxes into a walking rhythm to complement vibrating percussion patterns, the cadence doubles as Ellis squeezes out phrase after phrase of glottal punctuation and multiphonics. He operates at such velocity that you can imagine his fingers blurring on the keys. Eventually the spray of molten, accented tones sideslips into a new repetitive variation for the tune’s coda.

Nonetheless, the trio of preliminary tunes is ancillary build-ups to the more-than-40-minute flow that is “Philadelphia”. With an intensity that suggests Ornette Coleman AT THE GOLDEN CIRCLE or Jimmy Lyons’ trio work, the three bring brightness and grit to tempo shifts and line variation.

Operating as David Izenzon to Eneidi’s Coleman, Ellis wallops a walking bass line underneath the proceedings most of the time, resonating woody textures when he moves along. At the same time, his versatility is such that at certain point this Milt Hinton-like throbbing time-keeping is interrupted by sul tasto excursions. In the later half of the piece Ellis use different finger combinations to produce cello-like tones, vibrate the bass’s ribs and belly for extra textures and subtly introduces a touch of electronics to rasp squeaking manipulations, utilizing the upper partials as well as expected sounds.

Content to rumble, crash and slap, Valsamis is a more reserved drummer than Charles Moffett. Sul ponticello squirming from Ellis, for instance, calls forth woodblock and floor tom accenting plus cymbal ruffling. Freak high string notes bring out vibrating cymbals and when Eneidi introduces yet another twittering and slurring variation, the trapsman responds with rolls, rumbles and cross-sticking flams.

In front, the altoist initially spins out arpeggio after arpeggio and slur after slur with the color of early Ornette. Braking to an early false climax one-fifth of the way along, he then accelerates to a shower of side-slipping overblowing, glottal patterning and trumpet-like retches. Subsequently bumping up against Ellis’ slaps and strokes, Eneidi keeps himself in check for a period, breathing single tones through his body tube. Eventually upping the excitement level, he moves from languid to hustling, soon trying out different fingering combinations to add to the mounting effervescence. Bending his notes to produce flattement, slurs and growls, not to mention tongue stops and bell muting, he reaches a point where split tones, glottal cries and overblowing combine on top of rumbling finger motion from Ellis and a pulse from Valsamis to drive the rhythmic intermingling ever upward to a tension-dissipating point.

Less intense than SOS, over the course of eight numbers TC includes more restrained ballads and moodier melodies among its output. In common with SOS, though, most centre on the curves and torque that Malaby can bring to them. Although, as on “Swedish Summer” he has periods of thin tone production, most of his output encompasses polyphonic blowing that demands more than tender strokes from Opsvik and single stock-on-cymbal slicks that Davis brings to that tune.

Much more common are pieces like “Never Removed From Box” and “Mint No Box”, which open and close the CD. Although the later begins quietly with cymbal squeaks and restrained drumming, the tenor saxophonist soon interrupts that with harsh ejaculations and mouthfuls of split tones. With the bowed bass in double counterpoint, the piece ends with steady, percussive bops and flams.

Revolving on shifting tonal centres, the first composition is a polyphonic line which allows the three to combine in multi tempi. Here Opsvik’s string resonation is as powerful as Ellis’ is on LIVE, with some notes spun out with the facility of an electric instrument. Davis pirouettes multifaceted drum accents, while Malaby seems to be alternately exploring the insides of his body tube and bow or turning irregular pitches and screams into reed-shredding exploits.

Multinational, multi-tonal and multi-faceted, both veterans and younger players offer high-class contributions to jazz’s globalization.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Live: 1. Amherst 1 2. Amherst 2 3. Amherst 3 4. Philadelphia,

Personnel: Live: Marco Eneidi (alto saxophone); Lisle Ellis (bass); Peter Valsamis (drums)

Track Listing: Tone: 1. Never Removed From Box 2. Swedish Summer 3. Matchbox 4. Waltz 5. Waltz Coda 6. Glorious 7. Shelf/Regular Model 8. Mint No Box

Personnel: Tone: Tony Malaby (tenor saxophone); Elvind Opsvik (bass); Jeff Davis (drums)