Peter Brötzmann / LIsle Ellis / Marco Eneidi / Jackson Krall

January 10, 2005

Live at the Spruce Street Forum

Botticelli 1015

Marco Eneidi is a brave musician.

When it comes to improvising, the diminutive, Bay area alto saxophonist will match his skills against anyone’s. Which is why LIVE AT THE SPRUCE STREET FORUM is such an explosive document. The five longish tracks feature Eneidi facing off with a reedman universally acknowledged since the 1960s as one of the most ferocious on his instruments: German saxist and clarinetist Peter Brötzmann.

Aided and abetted by Vancouver-born, California-based bassist Lisle Ellis and New York drummer Jackson Krall and recorded in San Diego, the CD is a caterwauling yawp of a session. It proves how in the right circumstances it only takes four committed improvisers to make enough characteristic sounds to create their own version of John Coltrane’s ASCENSION, which featured 11 musicians or Brötzmann’s MACHINE GUN which featured eight.

In the years since he helmed that session in 1968, Brötzmann has played with nearly every major figure in international improv. Ellis has worked with the likes of Vancouver pianist Paul Plimley and upstate New York’s Joe McPhee, while Krall is drummer of choice for pianist Cecil Taylor. As for Eneidi, fire-breathing tenor men don’t phase him: he had a longtime relationship with the late Oakland, Calif.-based reedist Glenn Spearman.

Here, hard and heavy reed textures snap all over the place, with great hairy honks from the tenor meeting up with rough, flutter tongued altissimo pitches and irregular vibrations from the alto. Yet, even as the split tones, foghorn honks and glottal punctuation combines into an elongated scream, you realize that there’s more to this creation than exuding pure emotion. Variations of beauty and order endure, along with historical references.

Sometime during the first tune, for instance, Brötz spews out a phrase identical to what Albert Ayler would have sounded during the latter’s ESP-Disk heyday. Aylerian suggestions peek from among other reed punishment elsewhere, while consciously or not, one of the final phrases ejaculated by the veteran closely resembles the connective riff on the original “Machine Gun”.

Promulgating broken counterpoint along with his darting, airy note splatters, Eneidi often works himself and the older saxist into polyphonic and polyharmonic double counterpoint. With bell-shaking screeching obbligatos spilling from both horns simultaneously, there are points where the freak-note tag-teaming resemble that of altoist Marion Brown and tenorist Archie Shepp or altoist John Tchicai and tenorist Pharoah Sanders on “Ascension”.

Unlike Young Lion recreations, those inferences are just that. The two reedists aren’t out to emulate anyone — not even, in Brötzmann’s case, his earlier self. His clarinet work, which steeplechases from moody chalumeau flattement to trilling aviary undulations proves that here. Meanwhile, neither Brown nor Tchicai, Eneidi’s game plan can encompass a sudden lucid balladic line cut with a bit of steel, as he does on the second tune, or elsewhere where he shreds upper partials with intense triple tonguing. Swaying lines, he can create trumpety tones from his reed as easily as Brötz forces out wide vibrato tongue stops and deep-in-the-body-tube snorts.

Ellis and Krall aren’t left behind either. When he can be heard clearly from within the cacophony, the former rarely walks, but instead displays timbres that include pacific pizzicato chording and a solo that moves from stopping the string and stroking the bass’s ribs to accelerating the rhythmic impetus.

Krall reserves his brushes for the brief periods Ellis solos — and he can surprise with a standard beat if need be. But most of the time he thumps out backbeats, ruffs and rattles, and equally valuably, exhibits a decisive resounding splat to signal the end of certain tracks.

Looking for excitement? The folks at the Spruce Street Forum would agree that with this CD you’ve come to the right place.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. No. 1 2. No. 2 3. No. 3 4. No. 4 5. No. 5

Personnel: Marco Eneidi (alto saxophone); Peter Brötzmann (alto and tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet); Lisle Ellis (bass); Jackson Krall (drums)