Desert Sweets

A Place Meant For Birds
Balance Point Acoustics BPA-5

Analogous to the often succulent vegetation that blooms in the desert’s rugged landscape, Desert Sweets is a unique trio of improvisers, who manage to cobble together a musically seamless session, despite an unconventional line-up and a geographical separation. Recorded in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the basement textures come via the tuba of local Mark Weaver who has played with such sound explorers as trombonist Michael Vlatkovich and drummer Dave Wayne in the past. Elevated substance for these seven tracks is via German alto saxophonist and flutist Biggi Vinkeloe, who has lived in Sweden for many years, working with musicians ranging from Swedish drummer Peeter Uuskyla to American electronic manipulator Chris Brown. Serving as the interlocutor between the two is Houston bassist Damon Smith, a polymath, who has recorded with everyone from drummer Weasel Walter to saxophonist John Butcher.

Not that this CD is suspended between the reductionist or clamorous extremes the last two improvisers exemplify, but like a hybrid growth that adapts to a parched environment of the southwest, Desert Sweets blooms in its own way. Drummer-less, it’s Weaver powerful but downplayed blowing which percussively propel the seven tracks. His downy intermittent textures usually reside in the growl area and are moderated and rounded. The exception is an extended passage on “Not Salt” where didjeridoo-like resounds take up space alongside Vinkeloe’s tense whistles and arco sears from Smith that could rake the soil in other circumstances.

From the start, Vinkeloe’s alto saxophone double-tonguing and righteous articulation better matches Weaver’s basso burbles and Smith’s string slaps than her trebly flute lines. However like a stage play that shifts from comedy to drama, on “Silt” the transverse instrument provides proper timbral contrast to the others’ pugnacious tones. Elsewhere the reedist’s rasping tones provide another sort of continuum. As rhythmic slaps from the bassist give tunes a communicative finality, they’re often aided by Vinkeloe’s separate high and low-pitched tremolo notes as if they were oxpecker and rhino respectively. An even more profound demonstration of her saxophone skill occurs on “Embedded in Rock”, where in her tart solo maintains equilibrium between what a melody that is reminiscent of the sentimentality of “The Anniversary Waltz” on one hand and strained crying à la “Lonely Woman” on the other. Vinkeloe impresses as she moderates both extreme to set up an accord with Smith’s formalized, almost Euopeanized string strokes.

Satisfying in its interaction, with the ad hoc trio spelled on one track by a poem recitation by Lisa Gill, the high-quality improvisations here suggest that this concert was a location for committed listeners as well as A Place Meant For Birds.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Vision Is a Long Tumble 2. White Bed 3. Not Salt 4. Silt 5. Embedded in Rock 6. The Wind Has Taken My Breath* 7. To Spill a Few Birds

Personnel: Mark Weaver (tuba and didgeridoo); Biggi Vinkeloe (alto saxophone and flute); Damon Smith (bass) and Lisa Gill (poem)*