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A live recording at the Outpost from a tour in 2013, the first time the Desert Sweets trio of Biggi Vinkelo on sax & flute, Mark Weaver on tuba and didgeridoo, and Damon Smith on double bass, reuniting after their 2001 recording for a beautiful album of intimate improvisation.

Desert Sweets: Vinkeloe, Biggi / Mark Weaver / Damon Smith
A Place Meant For Birds

Desert Sweets: Vinkeloe, Biggi / Mark Weaver / Damon Smith: A Place Meant For Birds (Balance Point Acoustics)

Label: Balance Point Acoustics    
Released in: USA    

"Thirteen years after their first release, Desert Sweets reunite on A Place Meant for Birds, recorded live at the Outpost in New Mexico. The trio consists of Biggi Vinkeloe from Sweden on alto sax and flute, Bay Area double bassist Damon Smith, and Albuquerque native Mark Weaver on tuba and didgeridoo. The intimacy of these seven improvisations gives us the chance to appreciate the group's complementary powers of reception and reaction, listening and responding.

Accordingly, this is music that both demands and repays close listening on the part of the audience, too. I admit I had to be patient with this album-it didn't force itself on me or even make itself immediately available. It doesn't care for casual attention. What we hear when we set aside the distractions are three musicians in a serious, cooperative search. Their points of reference are internal and constantly evolving; they resist pulse and pattern, seldom repeating themselves or settling down. It takes patience and effort for them to find what they're looking for, but when they do the results feel genuinely earned. A Place Meant for Birds, then, gives us both the process and the product (of course the process is the product, too, as with any improvisation), both "tumble"-to borrow from the title of the first track-and "vision."

"Vision is a long tumble" opens the outing at a modest pace, a bit subdued perhaps, with extended tuba and bowed bass textures supporting Vinkeloe's wandering alto lines. As the piece develops Smith's physical playing is especially dynamic, moving back and forth from arco to pizzi, from the low register to the high. Near the end of the track the trio comes together nicely in sustained, rising strata of sound. The shorter follow-up, "White bed," takes a wholly different approach, showing us a new side of the group. Here the playing is urgent and dense from the start, with Weaver squeezing small bubbles out of his tuba, Smith frenetically plucking strings, and Vinkeloe gasping for air between phrases, her saxophone keys fluttering.

Moving forward the trio works between these extremes, keeping the level of invention high. On "Not Salt" I love the grainy, warbling tone Weaver draws out of the didgeridoo, and the melody, heavy with pathos, Vinkeloe lays over Smith's rich bowing. The longest improvisation, "Silt" builds gradually in intensity over 15 minutes three sections, with Vinkeloe on flute for the first time. "The Wind has Taken my Breath," the penultimate piece, features Lisa Gill reading her desert-themed poem, from which all the track titles have been drawn. Finally, on "To Spill a few Birds," Vinkeloe takes up the flute again, concentrating on a hauntingly beautiful motif tense with multiphonics. The effect, at the close of such a tirelessly exploratory album, is one of relief and great reward."-Eric McDowell, Free Jazz Blog

"Damon Smith studied double bass with Lisle Ellis and has had lessons with Bertram Turezky, Joëlle Leandré, John Lindberg, Mark Dresser and others. Damon's explorations into the sonic palette of the double bass have resulted in a personal, flexible improvisational language based in the American jazz avant-garde movement and European non-idiomatic free improvisation. Visual art, film and dance heavily influence his music, as evidenced by his CAMH performance of Ben Patterson's Variations for Double Bass, collaborations with director Werner Herzog on soundtracks for Grizzly Man and Encounters at the End of the World, and an early performance with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.

Damon has collaborated with a wide range of musicians, including: Cecil Taylor, Marshall Allen (of Sun Ra's Arkestra), Henry Kaiser, Roscoe Mitchell, Michael Pisaro, Wadada Leo Smith, Marco Eneidi, Wolfgang Fuchs, Peter Brötzmann and Peter Kowald. After many years in the San Francisco Bay Area, and five great years in Houston, Texas working regularly with Alvin Fielder, Sandy Ewen, David Dove & Chris Cogburn, Damon will move to the Boston area in the fall of 2016. Damon has run Balance Point Acoustics record label since 2001, releasing music focusing on transatlantic collaborations between US and European musicians."

-Balance Point Acoustic Website (

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Price: $11.16
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Product Information:

Label: Balance Point Acoustics
Catalog ID: BPA -5
Squidco Product Code: 21249

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2015
Country: USA
Packaging: Cardboard sleeve
Recorded live at the Outpost in Albuquerque, New Mexico on March 14th, 2013 by Kirk Brown.


Biggi Vinkeloe-alto saxophone, flute

Mark Weaver-tuba, didgeridoo

Damon Smith-double bass

Lisa Gill-poem

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Track Listing:

1. Vision Is a Long Tumble 7:32

2. White Bed 4:14

3. Not Salt 7:50

4. Silt 15:18

5. Embedded in Rock 10:10

6. The Wind Has Taken My Breath 4:02

7. To Spill a Few Birds 4:31