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Sweden-based wind player Biggi Vinkelow’s latest collection comes courtesy of eclectic Eld Records, a new label emphasizing diverse Swedish sounds while covering the thriving Göteborg scene. Almost entirely self taught, Vinkeloe received her first sax at 24. For her day job she plies music therapy. Two highly regarded San Francisco improvisers flesh out the trio, drummer Donald Robinson and bassist Lisle Ellis. Besides their association with the Bay Area, Robinson and Ellis have a longtime association with each other an in-demand rhythm section. Their combined resume drops names like William Parker, John Tchicai, Wadada Leo Smith, Cecil Taylor, Larry Ochs, Jimmy Lyons, and Glen Spearman. All three players have an appreciation for space and use silence as a color in its own right.
Ellis opens the title track with a thoughtful bass improv, soon joined by Robinson whispering on the snare with brushes. Vinkeloe enters with a Paul Desmond sound then coils and unwinds melody through Ellis and Robinson’s loose yet synchronistic forays. The easy tempo stays taut and Vinkeloe maintains an effortless focus. While Vinkeloe and Robinson tease each other on “Juste Un Mot,” Ellis plucks quick contrasting lines.
Vinkloe dusts off her flute for “Aquilon,” and takes the trio through an up-tempo thrill ride. As reserved as her alto playing had been on the first tracks, her flute playing soars. Ellis pulls himself a meaty solo and keeps watch on Robinson’s inventive percussion. Vinkeloe returns to fly an exhilarated solo. Atmospheric mallets on toms introduce “Bleu Sud,” and Robinson expands on the opening statement. Ellis's bowing joins Vinkeloe’s alto holding notes. Robinson drops out and Ellis and Vinkeloe develop ideas in duet.
Using the sound of the tapping keys, extended techniques, and devastating breathing, Vinkeloe makes “Petit Kamichi” a tour de force. With subtle input from the rhythm section, Vinkelow’s fleet flute gracefully mutates through tones and percussive effects. Back on alto for “Out of the Blue,” Vinkeloe and the boys take turns creating solo remarks that sometimes merge into collaboration. Vinkeloe’s sax work bubbles, and Ellis and Robinson roll around like kittens. They roll like tigers on “Dream Gone Blue,” and Vinkeloe blows hot dominating alto. Ellis plays vigorously solo, Robinson and Vinkeloe jump back in for the final run. The more tentative “Bleu Nord” uses carefully chosen steps to create an open lace work effect.
Back on flute, Vinkeloe plays an intuitive duet with Ellis on “Bleu Impression,” followed by Robinson’s sensitive solo. “Memoire de Blues’ features alto work that remains overwhelmingly melodic while tweaking time and indulging in unique phrasing. The mostly solo “Blue is the Moon” ends the set with a personal, wistful statement.
Even in her life as a professional musician, Vinkeloe’s inviting tones and solid imagination continue to further her work as a music therapist.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.