A first release for this trio active since 1992, Spy Satellite was recorded in studio in January 2001. John Dierker (saxophones and clarinets), Jonathan Vincent (piano), and Jeff Arnal (drums) were all based in Baltimore, MD, at the time. This CD-R invites the listener to an hour of free improvisation situated roughly halfway between European improv FMP-style and American fire music. As the session progresses, the levels of decibels and stamina tend to rise, as if the players had the impression they hadn't proved their worth yet -- and they wouldn't have been all wrong. The first 20 minutes (which comprise more than half of the tracks) is somewhat inconsistent, each musician exposing his general idea of what improvisation should be, but a group sound remains elusive. Somewhere around "Caterpillar Dream," things light up: Arnal's drums are no longer only supportive, they drive the trio forward full throttle. Vincent's playing gets spikier by the minute, while Dierker blows a mean alto sax. A highlight is reached in the 15-minute "There Where There Is No Other": The quality of listening among the musicians anchors the piece, and the final shift of impetus as Dierker picks up his bass clarinet provides a luminescent moment. Spy Satellite features three improvisers trying to find their voice in a world where this type of music is becoming more and more common (which doesn't equal "accepted"). They do it honestly, even though they lack the originality that would allow them to get noticed.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture