SUM – Invenio Ergo

Matchless

Sum is the trio of Eddie Prévost on drums plus North Ireland’s guitarist Ross Lambert and alto saxophonist Seymour Wright, the latter’s Seymour Wright Of Derby among the most interesting solo saxophone recordings heard in the last years. This double CD comprises a live set recorded at London’s Café Oto on February 8th, 2009. Considering my decent level of knowledge of the work of at least two of the involved musicians (Lambert representing the less notorious quantity in this circumstance), I approached this outing with a degree of certitude regarding the presumable quality of the resulting product. A major disappointment was waiting around the corner.

Although the trio’s technical and cultural grounding is out of question, the bulk of this music is somewhat negligible and uninspiring. There’s no background analysis or historical/intellectual reference that could alter this belief, maintained even after following someone’s advice of giving the record additional chances (done, to no avail), as if three thorough listens weren’t enough. One can circumnavigate the bitter reality at will, either by disserting on the thematic quotes scattered all over the program and the dismemberment of renowned tunes, or summoning forth improbable similarities. James Blood Ulmer – whose style was defined harmelodic (sic) in another review of this very item on a famed magazine – is a particularly amusing case in point. But the noticeable separation in the stereo field – Wright on the right, Lambert on the left, Prévost central – is the same that is perceived in terms of lack of synthesis and overall character.

The only events that raise a modicum of curiosity are Wright’s sporadic attempts to explore the extreme registers of his instrument by alternating undersized spurts, kernels of notes and well-placed single squeaks to fairly traditional phraseology. In general, though, everybody remains confined within the borders of an abortive, jazz-tinged tearoom improvisation that, on the whole, fails to engage. Even when the artists go for a visit to the regions of rarefaction, the shortage of meaningful interaction is astounding. More than evoking uncontaminated types of bare-boned interplay, the acoustic imagery at large appears instead pretty ordinary, when not plain run-of-the-mill. And this happens over the course of two discs, for good measure.

Significantly, Brian Morton’s liners recite “None of these players would claim to be making a historic document, and one senses in them different kinds of diffidence to the act of making a record in the first place” and, at the very end, “They create, therefore we are”. You’d want to accept as truth that the affirmation is ironic, as Invenio Ergo might represent, in the opposite case, a manifesto for the aspiration to doing nothing. Given this hypothetical hesitancy about the idea of such a release, I’m not mincing words: this concert was best left in the attendees’ short-term memory, its artistic impact definitely not on a par with Matchless’ customary standards. And the “Invenio Ergo Sum” pun sounds forced, too.

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