One day while walking through Portland, Oregon's open-air Saturday Market, I passed a booth selling didgeridoos. (Evidently this obscure Australian aboriginal instrument has commercial potential, at least among the young and the restless.) A German Shepherd passing by paused in confusion to check out the vendor, who was busy demonstrating the musical possibilities of the instrument. The dog decided something creepy was going on, and he started to whimper. Little by little the canine decided he was hearing a threat from the end of the long piece of hollow wood. He insistently barked and whimpered in that general direction, until his owner took a good hold of the leash and pulled him away. (Needless to say, the interaction provided great entertainment for all, especially the vendor.)
That story illustrates the kind of sound one can get out of a didgeridoo: it's uncannily voicelike. Swedish new music veteran Sven Larsson primarily plays bass trombone on Didgeribone, but there's also enough didgeridoo here to intrigue all the German Shepherds of the world. For those not privy to Larsson's history as a Swedish improviser, or those who may have missed his playing on Bette Midler's tour (thumbs up to you), Didgeribone offers a fine introduction to Larsson at his most creative.
Not surprisingly, the sound on Didgeribone resides primarily in the low end of the frequency range, so be sure you've got good bass when you listen to this record. Larsson takes an almost polite approach to the didgeridoo, cycling around through delicate changes in timbre and volume. When he uses the bass trombone (as on the overdubbed bass trombone trio piece "Three Walking") he utilizes a broad range of freely-improvised material. When he goes solo on the 'bone, he relies on a subtle and evolving sense of swing. When he goes solo on the 'doo, one has the sense of giant waves crashing ashore.
Obviously Didgeridoo is not a record for everyone. But if you're curious about the possibilities available at the very low end of the brass scale, or the animal noises made possible through aboriginal instruments, Didgeribone is a must-listen. The record includes a number of unfortunate overdubs, which dramatically weaken the depth of the polyphonic improvisations. (I guess you gotta do what you gotta do when your instrument is monophonic and you need to build texture.) Given that drawback, Didgeribone is a delightfully fun record with lots of connections between the Western horn and its Eastern counterpart. The results: curious, interesting, and wonderfully indulgent. Recommended.
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