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 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 extremes to set up an accord with Smith’s formalized, almost Europeanized 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, JazzWord 04-17-2016)
Today another of the fine recent releases to be found on Damon Smith's Balance Point Acoustics label. Desert Sweets is the name of the trio and the album is entitled A Place Meant for Birds (bpa-5). It is a valuable addition to avant jazz discography because it gives us a nicely articulated threesome in Biggi Vinkeloe on alto and flute (an artist very worth hearing who has been some what under-recorded as a whole), Mark Weaver on tuba and didgeredoo (someone whose playing I do not know well but sounds totally appropriate here) and Damon Smith on bass, one of the master talents deserving wider recognition in the music today.
The approach is rollicking free-avant improv, with each member filling a key role. The recording is well staged with a perfect balance between the trio. Most importantly, it is a platform on which the three can excel at creating considerable spontaneous interest.
Biggi has a way about her. She is on the outside edge of the music yet there is also a lyrical side that shows here, nicely contrasting with Damon's advanced sound color bass adventures and Mark's tuba textures and good note choices.
There are seven segments that hold our interest. One includes a poem recitation by Lisa Gill that broadens the scope nicely.
It may be a bit of a sleeper of an album. Those who do not know the artists well may not find this album in their hands unless someone calls it out to them. I am doing that today because it is music that keeps sounding better to me the more I listen to it. The beauty of Ms. Vinkeloe's approach, the excellent improvisational bass lines and the nice color additions of Weaver's tuba show us an collective artistry that dwells in a rarified space where the lines work together yet each instrumentalist adds much of her-his own personal way.
(Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Music Review 03-01-2016)
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, The Free Jazz Collective 10-27-2015)
Houston-based bassist Damon Smith keeps a professional critic’s pace when it comes to the consumption of new improvised music by his peers and heroes. Rarely a day goes by on his Facebook feed without the posting of new acquisitions, often coupled with the kind of extreme cuisine choices that would make even the most seasoned cable TV shock gourmand balk at the prospect of ingestion (Pig snouts and rooster testicles represent recent selections). Along with these impressive appetites, Smith is fiercely protective of the musical heritage of which he is a part. Fail to do your homework or pontificate without proper context and you’re likely to justifiably earn his ire. Smith’s strong stances may be off-putting in their occasional stridency, but they are products of a genuine love of the music.
A Place Meant for Birds, released on Smith’s label Balance Point Acoustics, reveals another side of the bassist’s personality, his sense of humor. A cover painting by Delmas Howe depicts a cherubic vaquero that bears more than passing resemblance to Smith. Operating under the collective sobriquet of Desert Sweets, Swedish altoist Biggi Vinkeloe (also on flute) and tubaist Mark Weaver (doubling on digeridoo) joined him at Albuquerque’s Outpost performance space in March of 2013 for a gig that dates almost a dozen years from an earlier recording together. The trio’s instrumentation lends itself to the realization of broad dynamics with Vinkeloe frequently inhabiting the upper regions with a lilting, aqueous reed tone while Smith and Weaver plumb the lower depths through textured drones and multiphonics. “Vision is a Long Tumble” traces just such an itinerary, the interplay unfolding in measured bursts across seven minutes and change.
“White Bed” erupts in cascades, Smith going for maximum snap from his strings as his partners loose overlapping percolating streams. Here and elsewhere the intimate recording really enhances the detail, so much so that the clicks of Vinkeloe’s key pads are easily audible alongside her feathery phrasings. “Not Salt” teams Weaver’s digeridoo with Smith’s tree-felling bass, the deep glottal sounds of the former vibrating in harmonic confluence with the swelling rub board resonances of the latter. Vinkeloe’s warm alto lines suss out the sweet spot in-between. Even when Smith’s bowing turns abrasive and frantic the overarching ensemble sound stays oddly meditative and melodic. Acrobatic, knife-edged flute, booming pizzicato bass and subterranean tuba dance together on the sectional fifteen-minute “Silt”, turning from hand-in-glove harmonics to a finale steeped in rapid-fire expulsions and explosions.
Vinkeloe’s role as mellifluous counterweight to the comparatively somber musings of Smith and Weaver extends into “Embedded in Rock” as the latter two instruments frame dark shapes and coarse textures against which the former’s alto brushes and glides, turning from sweet to sour and back again while sustaining an engaging tonal contrast. Poet Lisa Gill takes the stage with the trio for a recitation of her “The Wind Has Taken My Breath”, her abstract verbal imagery signaling abstruse bursts from the instruments. “To Spill a Few Birds” summarizes much of what has transpired prior with another collective leap into an extemporized breach and Vinkeloe blowing forceful figures on flute that carry vaguely Native American sonorities. As a means of tying the performance to its desert venue birthplace it does the job with beautiful brevity.
(Derek Taylor, Dusted magazine 12-01-2015)
Celebrating musical heroes of an early generation has been a staple of Jazz repertoire since before Jelly Roll Morton recorded “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say”. It has almost become an industry in the 21st Century. Luckily the Americans who make up the DO TELL trio... stay away from the usual suspects celebrated on these compelling sessions. DO TELL, consisting of Los Angeles-based cornetist Dan Clucas and two New Mexico-residents, drummer Dave Wayne and tubaist Mark Weaver, recreates six major compositions by alto saxophonist Julius Hemphill (1938- 1995), with no reeds in sight.
Like a dress rehearsal of a play which must replicate the performance without costume or scenery, the American trio has given itself the more difficult task. Except for “Hotend” created for overdubbed saxophone by Hemphill himself, all the tunes were played by saxophone-heavy units of various sizes. However Wayne’s brawny back beat plus electronic extensions as well as Weaver’s close-grained brass bulges provide the sounds with appropriate continuum. That leaves Clucas, like a superhero singlehandedly facing a clutch of villains, the task of communicating Hemphill’s sometime irregular themes. “Floppy” is notable for how he works a King Oliver-like clean note extension over tuba farts; while “Hotend” become a slow-moving atonal ballad whose emotional despondency gradually overtakes the performance via stable brass belting, lip burbles and stentorian rumbles.
Distinctively as Wayne’s percussion and processes reference textures that could be traced to maracas, cowbell, steel drum, glockenspiel and clap cymbals on “G Song”, Clucas’ whistles and emotional folksiness move the tune from ballroom formalism to backwoods Blues to Second Line excitement."Body” is a burnished tripartite showcase, where the mid-range tones intersect as cleanly as geometric lines.
Despite its stripped-down form as well, DO TELL makes “The Hard Blues” even harder. Colorful plunger work from the cornetist propels the theme, which takes on pre-Jazz echoes as it unrolls. With Weaver holding onto the bottom like a bronco buster at a rodeo and Wayne’s press rolls proving the clip-clop rhythm, the narrative echoes Jungle Music plus modern theme-and-variations.
(Ken Waxman, JazzWord 05-02-2016)
The advanced rootedness of Julius Hemphill's classic compositions sound well in the hands of the trio Do Tell on their album Hotend (Amirani Records 043). The trio is distinguished by the presence of the hip and backboned tuba work of Mark Weaver, the soulful cornet of Dan Clucas and the solid drumming and extracurricular electronics of Dave Wayne.
We get the churn and burn of vintage Julius with "Floppy," "Dogon A.D.," "Body," "Hotend," "The Hard Blues," and "G Song." Do Tell quite obviously relishes the pieces and digs right into them like a hearty handshake from an old friend.
There is plenty of space, understandably, for all three to move around and through. They do not fail to get it all going. This is in the classic tuba trio zone. Weaver, like Joe Daley with Sam Rivers, gets into the riffs like a tuba variant of the contrabass role but then he also solos like a horn. He plays a nice part too in the melody-heads as warranted. Wayne plays a swinging funk to nail down the groove. And Dan is filled with good solo ideas and limber phrasing so nothing ever becomes tiresome.
A happy confluence is Hotend. It manages to be ahead avant wise yet remains accessible to anybody with a sense for jazz in the wide possibilities it has for us. Bravo!
(Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Music Review 10-26-2016)
The best jazz players remain loose, even when tackling the compositions of their most respected elders. The trio of Dan Clucas (cornet), Mark Weaver (tuba) and Dave Wayne (percussion) masterfully pays homage to the great saxophonist and composer Julius Hemphill over the six thoughtfully chosen cuts on Hotend. A great improviser, Hemphill’s works leaves space for the trio to freely showcase some of their own personality while holding true to the mood of the originals. Without a conventional or predictable structure, free jazz can be too heady for some, but Do Tell presents these songs with an approachable vibrancy that finds balance between complex, engaging artistry and listenability. By presenting the tunes using different instrumentation from Hemphill’s own recordings, Clucas, Weaver and Wayne are able to provide a fresh perspective while highlighting Hemphill’s case for warranting more widespread notoriety.
(Jonny Leather, Santa Fe Reporter 06-08-16)
LA cornetist/flutist Dan Clucas' new release with his Lost Iguana Ensemble, Do You Know The Ways, contains just four pieces, though two of them clock in at more than 20 minutes each. Those two were composed by the hornman while the remaining two are collective improvisations.
The disc opens with "Chaparral," a sprawling, moody piece that begins with Clucas navigating the divide between the delicacy of Don Cherry and the more extroverted expressions of Lester Bowie. Slowly, the bowed cymbals of drummer Dave Wayne enter, followed by the dark arco lines of cellist Jessica Catron. The bottom-end is handled by the remarkably fluid tuba of Mark Weaver. Since there are two drummers in the Lost Iguana Ensemble, (Brian Christopher is on the other kit), it's hard to single out who's doing what, but both men play with a quiet urgency, frequently concentrating on micro-gestures. "Chaparral," is episodic, with many scene changes and lots of solo cornet work. Wayne also handles electronics, which bubble to the surface in quiet moments. Catron's cello is particularly active throughout, either with resonant lines or furtive scrapes. It's hard to imagine two instruments more different than the cornet and the flute, but Clucas seems equally adept at either in this piece.
There is a seamless transition into "Ask Possum," which hovers in a gloomy atmospheric bog, illuminated by the leader's extended techniques and the valve-popping alacrity of Weaver. This is highly controlled free music, all of the players keeping a tight lid on their volume. Clucas slips the Harmon mute on for some Miles-ian musings, and Catron stirs things up with some animated ponticello bowing.
Long, drawn tones introduce "Boulevard," another Clucas original. Weaver lets loose with a multinote cadenza over the hyper-quiet brushstrokes and choked cymbal thwacks of the percussionists, then Clucas enters with waves of tart smearing. Catron and Weaver engage in a low-toned dialog while everyone else lays out. When Clucas returns, it is with wicked tonal distortions, a la Bowie or Bill Dixon.
Indeed, there is a heavy Art Ensemble of Chicago vibe happening here, with an emphasis on the unexpected. Each member gets their moment to shine, without ever resorting to the "head-solos-head" format.
There is a kind of hushed dreamscape that guides the proceedings. Even when Clucas dials up the intensity, the drummers get busy, rather than loud. One of the greatest things about this disc is the amount of open space--allowing for moments like the pizzicato cello/cornet interlude about three quarters through "Boulevard."
Cornet repetitions course over the nervous bowed fragments of the cello, while the tuba dives into the netherworld and the drums hiss and percolate on "Ask Peacock." Amazingly, the improvised tracks, like this one, carry the same compositional weight as the notated ones. This is a group of virtuoso listeners. Dark, spooky stuff. Highly recommended to those who enjoy sonic exploration.
(Robert Bush, San Diego Reader 04-24-2012)
"Tuba player Mark Weaver is one of a group of fine jazz and improvising musicians who's chosen to settle out in the New Mexico desert, which explains why he pops up quite frequently on Albuquerque poet / raconteur Mark Weber's excellent Zerx label (Weaver also plays in The Bubbadinos, perhaps the best — and most criminally neglected — avant-folk outfit west of the Mississippi). From time to time he heads west into the smog, though, and this quartet date with Dan Clucas (cornet, flute), Michael Vlatkovich (trombone) and Harris Eisenstadt (drums) was recorded in LA in April. It's a tasty set of nine Weaver originals, craftily arranged and powered forward by Eisenstadt's kit. Weaver has a certain fondness for irregular meters, but despite the intricacy of the rhythmics the music is never coolly abstract — Vlatkovich's dirty smears and strong mute work (cf. "Minus") keep things agreeably sweaty. Imagine the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, or half of them, reschooled by Threadgill, Lake and Hemphill. The sedate chorale of "Clear" is a fine example of how to make three instruments sound like twice as many; there's plenty of space for Eisenstadt to stretch out in this and the following uptempo "Movie", and he also slips in some deftly understated funk into "Avenue". The broad, brassy melodic sweeps and occasional voice-like inflections of Clucas' cornet recall Lester Bowie on a number of occasions, and Weaver reveals once again — for anyone who's never heard Joe Daley or Kirk Joseph — that the tuba is just as agile and versatile as a string bass."
Dan Warburton (Bagatellen.com 07 November 2003)
Given its name which reflects its brass-heavy instrumentation, you'd expect Mark Weaver's Brassum to be a celebration of the brass band tradition with evocations of marching bands... But with leader and tubaist Mark Weaver taking on the role of the string bass, this band really is a free Bop ensemble with catchy, intriguing tunes setting up edgy blowing. Little Weaver plays wouldn't fall easily under the fingers of an adept bassist. That's not to say that his big brass bass doesn't add a dominant color to the date. The tuba's expansive sound envelops the ensemble with a golden fog. Even when vamping, Weaver's lines (and this applies as well to the undisputed master of this school of tuba, Bob Stewart) resonate with the other horns in the way a string bass does not. Weaver and Eisenstadt prove to be a playful rhythm section. Clucas works well within the context of Weaver's compositions. Vlatkovich further lifts the session with his robust, ripping trombone lines. ...this music, through crafty writing and daring playing, achieves a sound larger than you'd assume from the seemingly meager complement of instruments.
David Dupont (Cadence magazine vol.30, No.6, June 2004, p.46-47)
Considering its impressive range and flexibility, the tuba often gets overlooked in the modern rhythm section, but Mark Weaver aims to correct all assumptions that the big horn is lacking mobility. Joined by fellow brass players Michael Vlatkovich and Dan Clucas on this set of original tunes, Weaver delivers bass lines with a buoyant feeling and deep tone, laying the bottom down heavily on the languid "Avenue", his natural groove enhanced by Harris Eisenstadt's imaginative, uncluttered drumming. It provides a setting made to order for Vlatkovich and Clucas who respond with punchy concise solos, notably on "Minus". Some of this music is almost programmatic; its easy to imagine a track like "Clear" evoking the rugged New Mexico area where Weaver lives. These nine compositions inspire the players to show off some skillful work, Weaver's slow-themed "Elements" allowing Eisenstadt maximum room to play around the time, reaching for tympani-like effects on his drum kit as the horns swell with glowing tone.
Steve Vickery (CODA magazine, Issue #314, Mar/Apr 2004, p.32)
Brassum features Mark Weaver on tuba and compositions, Dan Clucas on cornet, Michael Vlatkovich on trombone and Harris Eisenstadt on drums. This is certainly a unique quartet of three brass (tuba, cornet and trombone) and drums. And the leader (or main composer, Mark Weaver) is the person I am least familiar with. Dan Clucas has a previous disc on pfMentum, while Mr. Vlatkovich has various discs out on Nine Winds, Jazz'halo and pfMentum. Drum wiz, Harris Eisenstadt, is an old friend who lives here on occasion and also has various discs out with Sam Rivers, Simon Fell, Rob Brown, Adam Rudolph and Steve Swell.
Mark Weaver does write odd tunes. "Selvage" features all three horns playing their parts in unison, as Harris plays a consistent flow of ever-shifting drum parts. Mark's tuba and Harris' drums make a fine rhythm team, as both Clucas's cornet and Vlatkovich's trombone take fine solos. I am reminded of the days when either Joe Daley or Bob Stewart, both tuba players, worked hard with the Sam Rivers Trio. Speaking of trios, there are two trio pieces here. One is for trombone, tuba and drums and it is a slow bluesy number with some fine earthy trombone. The other trio is for cornet, tuba and drums and Dan takes a grand cornet solo once more. "The Meaning of the Word" has a rather funky groove played well by Harris as the three horns play tight harmonies. Both Dan on cornet and Michael on trombone again take spirited solos. One of the things that makes this disc so fine is the great interplay between the tuba and drums, they sound as if they have been working together for so many years. I dig the closing tune, "Pumpkin Pie", because it has such a great groove when it begins and then breaks down to freer parts for the entire midsection. Boss brass and dynamic drums from this marvelous quartet.
Bruce Lee Gallanter (Downtown Music Gallery)
Brassum Live is cornet (Clucas), trombone (Vlatkovitch) and tuba (Weaver)with a drumset (Eisenstadt) and after a typical improv intro (a fractured searching piece) the album settles into a great set of pieces based on the brass instruments whose tones and timbres work brilliantly together, either in concord or as solo and support instruments. In some, for example, the tuba takes the traditional string bass role, others shift between more fractured and swing segments. My only concern is the percussion that at times seems less subtle than the brass — but the others do overcome that limitation and the album as a whole demonstrates pfMentum's continuing ability to release improvised works that are entertaining and demanding.
Jeremy Keens (Ampersand, www.pretentious.net)
Does someone remember Bill Frisell's music circa "Rambler", way before it became a truck driver's wet dream? Well, Brassum sound like a cross of that - minus Frisell - and Frank Zappa's recently rediscovered "Petite Wazoo"; but there is so much more. A quartet led by tuba player Mark Weaver, featuring Dan Clucas on cornet, Michael Vlatkovich on trombone and Harris Eisenstadt on drums, this band is a peculiar assemblage of theatrical method and half-ironic, half-dramatic lyricism. The seven compositions, all penned by Weaver, show an almost painful progression towards the core of a music which accepts no sticker and moves according to contrapuntal laws gathering funeral marching and jazz structuralism, all the way through dozens of impulsive sketches and memorable themes. Two of the pieces are indeed trios; in one of them ("Brown Blue") Clucas delivers a gorgeous cornet solo. The leader's bass lines are cleverly intelligible, the proper skeleton of a sound body that walks and runs without any stumbling. Vlatkovich and Eisenstadt play with the same attitude of a couple of conservatory-trained street jugglers, adding a touch of beautifully restrained freedom to the whole. The musicians' tightness makes this release sound like a studio album, as these guys tend to cohesion rather than spread away from a center. It feels just right.
Massimo Ricci (Touching Extremes, Oct 2006)
Brassum is Dan Clucas (cornet), Michael Vlatkovich (trombone), Mark Weaver (tuba), and Harris Eisenstadt (drums)...four modern jazz musicians with a flair for the unusual. The tracks on Live were recorded during three of the band's performances in 2004 and 2005. The tracks on this album are spontaneous and unpredictable. What sets this group apart from others is the intriguing use of the tuba as a main instrument. But rather than sounding goofy or comical (which is what can happen when most jazz, pop, and rock bands push the tuba up front in the mix), the instrument seems to fit into this band's equation with comfort and ease. Seven lengthy cuts are presented here...with our favorites being "Selvage," "The Meaning of the Word/Shades of Grey," and "A Grain of Mustard Seed." Recommended for fans of modern obtuse jazz. (Rating: 4+++++)
(www.LMNOP.com, August 2006)
Here we have jazzy improvisation at top level but with strong emphasis on some melodic lines. And that is what distinguishes Brassum from many others improvisers or spontaneous musicians. Here we have exploration of lines done with trombones and tubas and cornets with a certain jazz feeling but keeping main ideas through all the compositions. This is exploration of new sounds with a lot of coherence and developing new ideas but always keeping the main structures in mind that is what gives a pure jazz feeling.
(musicextreme.com Oct 2006)
BRASSUM ist ein Projekt des umtriebigen Wollmützenträgers Mark Weaver, der mit seiner Tuba den Brass-Klang des Jeff Kaiser Ockodektets andickt, wenn er nicht mit Chris Jonas und BING, dem ARC Ensemble und dem eigenen Rumble Trio auf dem High Mayhem Festival in Santa Fe auftaucht oder mit weiteren Formationen wie Protuberance oder MAD sein Können zeigt. Im AMH Trio ist dann schon der Drummer Harris Eisenstadt an seiner Seite, der auch für den federnd-rührigen Brassum-Antrieb sorgt, in einer Formation, in der neben Weaver noch die pfMentum-einschlägigen Blasmusikanten Michael Vlatkovich an der Posaune und Dan Clucas am Kornett ausschliesslich Wind machen. Brassum Live (pfMENTUM CD 036) zeigt das Quartett in Aktion in Tuscon, AZ und in Albuquerque, NM, einem Heimspiel für Weaver, der sich sämtliche Stücke ausgedacht hat und dabei seine Mitbläser, wie schon beim CD-Debut Warning Lights (Plutonium, 2003), treppauf-treppab durch verwinkelte Spielebenen lenkt. Die Musik ist far-big ('Shades of Grey', 'Brown Blue'), würzig ('A Grain of Mustard Seed') und nahrhafter, als man es bei einer derartigen Luftnummer vermuten möchte. Die Rollenverteilung ist dabei immer wieder so, dass Posaune und Kornett in virtuosen Exkursionen und Dialogen und in notierten Synchronschwüngen die 'höheren' Regionen durchkurven, während Eisenstadt und Weavers Continuogeblubber Basisarbeit leisten. Vom Grooven weicht diese Musik, die man ungestraft, Jazz' nennen darf, nur ab, um mundgeblasenes Buntglas auszuformen. Weaver hegt bei aller Sophistication die Blueswurzeln solcher Blasmusik. Zum posaunistischen Funeral, 'Brown Blue' sieht man geradezu den Sarg eines Philosophen vor dem inneren Auge vorbei schaukeln, während, '...Mustard Seed' aus brütender Nachdenklichkeit doch eine Leichtigkeit des Seins aufblühen lässt.
Rigobert Dittman (Bad Alchemy, email@example.com)
I Brassum del compositore e tubista Mark Weaver sono una gran bella (gradita) sorpresa. Quartetto ripreso dal vivo durante tre concerti americani a cavallo fra il 2004 e 2005, i Brassum si fanno da subito apprezzare per il loro approccio svagato e giocherellone alla materia sonora; atteggiamento salutare accolto con grande piacere vista la quantità impressionante di palloni gonfiati sparsi in giro per il mondo a combinare danni. Della partita oltre allo stesso Weaver (logicamente alla tuba) sono: Michael Vlatkovich (trombone), Harris Eisenstadt (propulsione ritmica fantasiosa) e Dan Clucas (corno). Bel gruppo di fiati imbizzarriti, un pelo Sun Ra ed un pelo Liberation Music Orchestra, una serie di rimandi leggeri come soffio che, fra girotondi blues e stacchi più propriamente jazz, si innervano di siparietti vari e dilettevoli costantemente in bilico fra stravaganti fughe di tuba solista (ovviamente) e digressioni rampicanti in odor di klezmer, nessuna direzione programmata ed un unico scopo perseguito; creare musica leggera ed impalpabile con dilettevole raziocinio. Scopo raggiunto si direbbe ad un primo ascolto (ed anche il secondo avvalora questa tesi...). Marcette stranianti da big band screziata di blues, diluizioni fiatistiche gassose, rotolanti siparietti percussivi intrisi di dolenti sfiatature al limite di un esotismo realmente diverso (accenni latini?). Una bellezza rinfrescante! The Meaning Of The Word/Shades Of Grey è di una semplicità apparente ammirevole, docile, planante e leggibile; una scrittura affascinante e carica di suggestioni fortemente cinematografiche. Mi ripeto; una bellezza! Movimenti d'insieme fortemente suadenti che tentano di mimetizzarsi in un pachidermico accenno di danza. Ora però esigiamo un lavoro registrato in studio! Consigliato anche a chi non ha dimestichezza con certi suoni.
Marco Carcasi (www.kathodik.it, October 2nd 2006)
Acabo de dar duas passagens seguidas no novíssimo disco do grupo do tubista, compositor e arquitecto norte-americano Mark Weaver, Brassum. Fiquei muito bem impressionado com este "Live" de um quarteto de três metais e bateria, formado por Dan Clucas (corneta), Michael Vlatkovich (trombone), Mark Weaver (tuba) e Harris Eisenstadt (bateria), que se segue ao primeiro "Warning Lights", Plutonium Records. Ficou o aviso. O disco recolhe apresentações ao vivo em Tucson, Albuquerque e Santa Fé, de uma digressão realizada pelos estados do Arizona e do Novo México. É neste último estado da União que Mark Weaver reside, no meio do deserto, onde tem tempo e paciência para compor e arranjar os temas, "projectar" as suas melodias fora do vulgar (como em Threadgill, com quem tem merecido comparações), marcar os ritmos angulosos e irregulares, que o resto grupo, distinta rapaziada da West Coast, acrescenta e interpreta de forma ágil, como desembaraçado é o som de tuba de Mark Weaver. A edição é da pfMENTUM, do trompetista Jeff Kaiser, cuja orquestra, Ockodektet, Weaver integra. Brass band tem habitualmente uma ressonânica passadista, mas esta, respeitando o passado e a literatura disponível, está mais virada para a frente e interessada em explorar composições originais.
Eduardo Chagas (Jazz e Arradores, 06-29-06)
Multi-reed player Lechusza teams up with Weaver on tuba and Eisenstadt on drums in a loosely configured recording containing substantial free blowing and explosive drumming. Lechusza is into adventurous improvising spurred throught the prodding of Weaver, who uses his tuba in a dual capacity. He takes on the bass role and also turns the unwieldy instrument into an improvising tool using highly dexterous fingering and breath control. While Lechusza is launching the all-original compositions (most of which are by Weaver) with hefty rounds of spontaneity, Weaver is either matching his action with vigorous puffing or laying down a patterned bottom line. Eisenstadt is a deft handler of the drums, providing significant firepower when needed or simply using shimmering cymbal crashes and brush strokes to supplement the quieter moments.
The recording is from a live session, and all three musicians capitalize on this to produce a highly original set. Lechusza continually rotates his horns, creating shifting moods and scenarios with the varying tones. On the slower pieces, he uses the higher-pitched flute and clarinet, while on the more robust songs, the darker baritone and bass clarinet emerge. In all cases, he is into heavy realms of inspiration spun off the song themes. Each horn, including the alto, is taken into dense areas as he breaks free with independent and unconstrained action. I particularly liked his bass clarinet rumblings on "Every Cubic Centimeter" and his aggressive attack on alto on "Elements", but he is a force on all his reeds. Weaver's tuba balances the act with growling efficiency, and Eisenstadt shades all of it with well-adapted and responsive patterns. This trio listens to the music and responds with a congealing effort. It is a very rewarding album of challenging and daring playing.
Eduardo Chagas (Jazz e Arradores, 06-29-06)
The man behind the plan is Mark Weaver, tuba player extraordinaire. I've been sitting on the Treated and Released album for too long, always meaning to review it, but never getting down to it. Now, with Weaver and company's latest offering, live at Field & Frame, I can kill two birds with one stone, or rather: place two birds nicely in one bush with a soft hand.
The difference in the two discs is essentially the lineup: Weaver plays tuba on both, both have a drummer (Harris Eisenstadt on Frame and my good email buddy Dave Wayne on Treated), but the newest offering has a reed player (Alan Lechusza) as opposed to a guitar player (Paul Pulaski) on the earlier release. This makes for very different soundscaping. The two discs are very similar, but very different.
Live at Field & Frame has moments that sound like the Sakoto Fujii orchestra. I attribute this quality to Lechusza's bari sax ostinatos on the first track, doubling the tuba line. The disc is a little noodly in places, but not too much to be a hindrance. When Lechusza plays clarinet, I am reminded of Don Byron's Romance with the Unseen, which is a high compliment. The group has tight, unison lines, and a start/stop quality that places their musicality on a high plain. This is a good effort into the compositional avant-garde, or "organized chaos."
Treated & Released has a rusty King Crimson flavor to it, due to the guitar. Once again, we have organized chaos, but here it has no weaknesses. The guitar fills the space nicely. There might be less dynamics than Frame but let me tell you this: I had this disc rotating in my CD Rom player at work for a full day, non-stop, and I never got bored. We also get a trashy feel from the guitar, which reminds me of every alternative band in Richmond, VA in the late 90s, like King Sour, Mao Tse Helen, and Austin, Texas' Dyn@mutt. Pulaski knows what he's doing.
The flavor of Treated & Released is definitely more alternative rock than jazz, but the tuba changes everything. The combination of guitar/tuba or reeds/tuba gives an original quality to both of these discs. I might not be able to spin live at Field and Frame all day, but the talent is consistent throughout. The mastermind is Weaver: he is a true compositional talent, especially in playing such a difficult instrument as the tuba. He doesn't limit his comps, or make them easier to play. These tunes are difficult and complex, and he weaves his way through them effortlessly.
Fred Barrett (www.beyondcoltrane.com/albums.cfm)
Releases like "live at the Field & Frame" serve notice that free improvisation and outside jazz (...or whatever you want to call it) are alive and well outside of NYC, Chicago and San Francisco. Tuba-ist Mark Weaver encountered San Diego-based multi-woodwind player Alan Lechusza while playing in Portland Oregon, in groups led by trumpeter Rob Blakeslee and trombonist Michael Vlatkovich. To quote Weaver's own liner note, he and Lechusza "immediately felt an affinity" for each others' playing, and planned their own project.
Though "live at the Field & Frame" is dominated by Weaver's compositions (6 out of 8 tracks), there is plenty of variety here. Eisenstadt's There are So Many Stars... is a floating, free-jazz ballad featuring Lechusza on flute. Lechusza's Number 5 is a more chaotic, angular piece which wouldn't sound out of place on one of Anthony Braxton's LPs from the mid-70s. Though not overly complex, Weaver's tunes are replete with unexpected twists and turns, space for extended improvisations, and opportunities for all sorts of musical zingers. Percussionist Eisenstadt does a wonderful job of picking up on the latter on Stitches: his instincts are as sure as his reflexes, in this regard. Weaver, though he blends magically with Lechusza on several of the themes and launches a vigorous extended solo on Stitches, spends most of his time providing a pliant 'air bass' springboard for Lechusza's (and Eisenstadt's) flights of fancy.
Pentimento starts off with a quirky, angular theme over an edgy rockish groove, dissolves into a dialogue between tuba and drumkit, and climaxes with an expressive, Surman-ish, baritone sax solo. In Place Of is somewhat more somber, with Lechusza's Klezmer-ish clarinet fluttering over Eisenstadt's purring snare, and Weaver's muttering tuba. My favorite track, however, is Every Cubic Centimeter, which alternates duo and trio free improvisations with a choppy 5/4 groove over which Lechusza (on bass clarinet, here) solos magnificently. Alan Lechusza is definitely a name you ought to take note of: he is one of those rare multi-woodwind players who has truly mastered each of his axes. I can't really say which instrument he sounds best on because he sounds great on each one (...and I am told his primary instrument is oboe!). Finally, the bare-bones "live-to-two- track" digital recording is surprisingly crisp and dimensional, though Weaver's tuba suffers somewhat at the expense of Eisenstadt's drums and cymbals.
"live at Field & Frame", available directly from Plutonium Records (plutoniumrecords.net), is a great example of what can happen when creative musicians in out-of-the-way places get to have friends in for a visit and stretch out a little. I hope that whatever is going on in Albuquerque is also happening in a town near you.
Dave Wayne (www.jazzweekly.com/reviews/amhtrio_live.htm)
Cosmic ReBop Society is a most successful union of sound and vision, coming to us from the hotbed of creative musicians in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area. Recorded live at the Blue Dragon Coffeehouse, the personnel is: Jim Hamm - ts, tpt; Mark Weaver - tba, tbn, dijeridu; Mike Balistreri - b, perc; Jake & Max - d, perc. Directed by Bee, the film eschews conventional photography in favor of a more abstracted approach. Bee is credited with live video painting and production, and the film is often reminiscent of the late filmmaker Stan Brakhage's penchant for scratching, drawing on, or otherwise manipulating his film stock, to open up new visual possibilities. While Bee does show treated images of the musicians themselves for extended passages, he alternates these with sequences of 'pure' abstraction; pure being in quotes because the abstractions seem like improvisations on a written melody drawn from isolated features of the actual film, then treated to further manipulations of color, texture, and shape.
The visual vocabulary, which creates its own rhythmic values, beautifully complements, and interacts with, the music. The Cosmic ReBop Society is an intriguing band, comprising musicians who are obviously well-versed in free improvisation. Jim Hamm, reminiscent at times of Marshall Allen and Albert Ayler, often sculpts his saxophone lines within a relatively narrow intervallic range, a challenge that he rises to with great skill. Mark Weaver's dexterity on tuba is also impressive, putting him in the same league as Bob Stewart, Joe Daley, or Howard Johnson. Mike Balistreri's bass playing is a key element: his dry, woody tone, in tandem with Hamm's detailed, breathy sax work, gives the music a distinct tone, that, together with the visuals, creates a powerful mood. The principal percussion is apparently conga drum, and its earthy vibe, combined with the very free, but centered, contributions from the other musicians, recalls small-group Sun Ra, circa Pathways to Unknown Worlds. In addition, the fact that the performance is a continuous piece makes it all the more trance-like for the viewer.
This unassuming videocassette, with its hand-printed, standard VHS spine label, deserves a place in the collection of anyone interested in the outer reaches of both improvised music and film language. A true pleasure for the eyes, ears, and mind.
Larry Nai (Cadence magazine, Vol.29, No.10, Oct. 2003, p.16)
...The most notable thing about (this recording) is the number of tracks. Vinkeloe and her trio created a series of 'instant compositions', but by limiting themselves to just a few minutes for each composition they do away with the greatest danger of this kind of free music, those half hour long expeditions in search of something to say that can plague free music and make it into a stunt instead of an art form. There are 22 tracks here in just over an hour of music, and while the longest 'instant composition' approaches five minutes, most of them hover around the two minute mark. What this means is that there is no searching and wandering around for a direction. The trio must make its statement and get out. No warm ups. No cool downs. Just a lot of close listening to one another, and responding from the gut. While Weaver and Smith are accomplished, Biggi Vinkeloe's sax and flute is often the voice drifting over a bass range background that puts her in the center of almost every track. She is sometimes a bit abstract, but more often than not she is inventing simple or crazy melodies, and not just atmospherics and multiphonics. ("desert sweets") keeps a soft, nostalgic mood, with warm, contemplative tempos for the most part, and in the end I think this trio manages to make these many, many brief statements into something greater than the parts.
Phillip McNally (Cadence magazine vol.28 no.10, Oct 2002, p. 110)
Through reviewing for this organ, your man had the good fortune several years ago to be introduced to the music of Swedish alto saxophonist/flautist Biggi Vinkeloe through One Way Out and Slowdrags and Interludes — trio records with drummer Peeter Uuskyla and either Peter Kowald or Barre Phillips on bass that offered short, succinct reports from quizzical blues to vaguely folkish fluting. The Desert Sweets trio continues the economical programming — 22 tracks in one hour! — but pits her against the lower voices of tuba/trombone player Mark Weaver and bassist Damon Smith. While the trio is balanced exquisitely in these keen improvisations, with Weaver doing things you don't expect a tuba to do and Smith conjuring rimshots on his bass when necessary, Vinkeloe remains the magnet. Her alto playing refers to Ornette's blues, but less excitably, while her flute conjures echoes of some lost culture's folk music.
Randal McIlroy (CODA magazine, issue 306, Nov/Dec 2002, p. 38)
Protuberance (is a) guitar trio whose mission statement is likely to include phrases like "having a good time" and "getting down"...there's an element of composition here, and a definite, deliberate positioning within the jazz tradition (according to the sleeve notes they even play standards, although sadly there are none here).
Using tuba instead as your bass instrument is always an interesting choice, and here Weaver really pushes the music into shape with his big, rounded bass lines and energetic improvisations. The pieces are simple, linear affairs, almost all composed by the tubist and consisting of little more than a bass line and a complementary melody on guitar. For his part, guitarist Pulaski has a lovely energy in his playing, although he tends to lapse into blues cliché, and without the attendant re-contextualisation which comes from...more avant methods. Still, Pulaski is very listenable, and when the tempo cranks up and tests his technique a bit he can be heard to worry at the notes with a rather likable flair for recovering from his clams.
While all this is going on, drummer Wayne kicks the music along at a brisk pace, locked in pretty tight with his partners to produce something very likable indeed, a music which could have been made any time in the last forty years, really, but which sounds fresh enough not to be branded merely retro. It's jazz with blues, prog folk, even surf elements, a kind of bastardised jazz from the folks in cowboy country, east of the West coast, away from the big cities where the fashionable stuff happens...a taste of something from slightly outside the categories and the trends set down by the big cities.
Richard Cochrane (Musings 1999)
Admit that for a band name, this is original. Other originality: this is a guitar/drums/tuba trio. Yes, tuba. And Mark Weaver, the band's tubist, is the principal composer of the band. Treated and released contains thirteen tracks ranging from three to nine minutes. They've all been recorded at KUNM-FM, a radio station in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Between Paul Pulaski's guitar (mostly without distortion), Mark Weaver's tuba and Dave Wayne's drums, funny stories unfold through twisted melody lines and sudden bursts of free improvisation. The major comparison would be Forever Einstein, for the use of seemingly simple melodies, the joyful, almost absurd, feel of the music and even the choice of titles (like "Seven Enchiladas" and "Adhesive Colors"), a trademark of Forever Einstein since their first record.
Protuberance treats the listener with some kind of subdued jazz that owes something to Frank Zappa and plays on the simplicity-in-complexity paradox to disorient and seduce the ear. You will quickly hum "Pocket"'s theme, but "Pumpkin Pie" will be quite a challenge. "Tee Vee/T.W.", dedicated to Tony Williams, will keep you on your toes with its bouncing surprises. The other tracks should not leave you cold either.
Protuberance's music can be compared to an esthetic developed by the Cunieform label (I am thinking of Forever Einstein of course, but also of Rattlemouth, Blast and Miriodor around Third Warning). The resulting music is fresh, without pretension and devilishly efficient. The tuba brings in an unusual note, while the clean guitar shades a surf-like color. Protuberance is a medicine against jazz taken too seriously: "absorb these tracks one at a time, with headphones, and a glass of water" (Mark Weber, liner notes).
François Couture (New Release of the Week, Delire Actuel, October 5th, 1999)
I guess there's something of a tradition for dodgy puns in jazz record titles, but there can't be much excuse for this band's name. They've got a tuba player, y'see. Geddit? Fortunately the record is sufficiently good that you can forgive them. Just.
This is essentially a jazz guitar/bass/drums trio, where the bass has been mugged by a tuba. Recorded in Albuquerque last year, this off-kilter line-up wouldn't sound out of place in downtown NYC, where the "avant-garde meets stately funk" outlook is certainly familiar yet still offers much room for manoeuvre.
Mark Weaver's tuba roots the sound with some elegance for such a seemingly awkward instrument, meshing surprisingly well with the other players. Drummer Dave Wayne's playing is engagingly funky, though with an ear tuned for the sudden off-beat investigation of his kit á là Joey Baron - he takes a fine solo on the self-penned "T. W." too. Yet, despite the fact that Weaver's written most of the tunes, and that his tuba is occasionally let loose (showing considerable agility on "Deflections" and some grace on "Soon Enough"), the lead sound here is undoubtedly Paul Pulaski's guitar. He's a player of some ability, with a sound I couldn't really pin down - at times he approaches Bill Frisell's territory (volume swells, and bent chords), though is perhaps closest to a trickier Marc Ribot - he's got a slightly sharper, clanging, bluesier tone than most jazz players, which contrasts well with the broad sound of the tuba.
The only problem here is that the lack of variation in sound eventually begins to show. No matter how good the players and the tunes are - and they are good - this combination played and recorded "straight" is ultimately a little limiting. Yet I can still heartily recommend this CD to fans of quirky, funky leftfield jazz. Even despite that name.
Dan Hill (http://motion.state51.co.uk/reviews/528.html)
With the presence of Mark Weaver's tuba, and Paul Pulaski's guitar sounding like a cross between Kelvyn Bell and Steve Gnitka, Protuberance brings back memories of the great early '80s Arthur Blythe Quintet with Bell and tubaist Bob Stewart. Pulaski's dry, natural electric tone clicks nicely with drummer Wayne's sense of color and shade, while Weaver can sound like a keyboard bass, a vacuum cleaner, or a stylus lifting roughly off an LP. He displays his ample technique on "Tee Vee" and the intro to "Behind Your Face", and wrote most of the catchy, riff-based tunes, all of which hover in the 4-minute range. The one exception, the 9-minute "Pumpkin Pie", veers quickly away from its edgy melody for a 3-way free conversation. Reminiscent of some of the more improvisational products of the SST label, this tight trio plays very enjoyable music for the postmodern ear.
Larry Nai (Cadence magazine vol.26 no.5, May 2000 p.41)
It's amazing just how much music you can make with a human voice and a tuba (or didgeridoo) and a couple of simple percussion instruments. Vocalist Patti Littlefield and tubaist/didgeridooist Mark Weaver deliver fearlessly original takes on standards, as well as some startlingly original compositions. The performances carry the archness of cabaret, the edginess of new music, and the grit of the roadhouse.
Littlefield's versatile voice has an inherently theatrical quality that compels your attention, and Weaver finds fresh, swinging, remarkably supple bass lines. Together, they dance out on several limbs and have a blast jumping up and down to see if the limb holds. It does—in fact, it gets into the act, bouncing them into exciting new territory.
There's the seductive tango of "You're My Thrill" (complete with racy interlude), the noir swing of "Small Day Tomorrow," the sound collage of the Weaver original "A Grain of Mustard Seed," Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" with spacey lyrics by Mike Ferro, Littlefield's depiction of her near-disappearance in "Perfect Blues," "Caravan" with Littlefield as horn, and an airy, smile-inducing "Jitterbug Waltz."
Also included are two hair-raising live tracks—"House of the Rising Sun" and "Ode to Billie Joe"—recorded at the Outpost Performance Space (Albuquerque NM) in the summer of 2008, as the quartet Woof! with Lewis Winn (guitar) and Cal Haines (drums).
Mel Minter (12-11-08 CDbaby.com)
Resonance certainly stands out from the glut of singer sessions. First off there's the instrumentation: vocalist Patti Littlefield and tuba player Mark Weaver for the most part, though Weaver mixes in some didgeridoo. Then there's the unusual choice of tunes ranging from adventurous originals to standards with some Blues and Country mixed in. But what most sets this apart is the quality of the work. Littlefield is a self-assured vocalist who brings the voice of each song to life. She establishes this from the start. She endows "You're My Thrill" with a dangerous, sensual edge and then takes it further by interpolating a stanza of erotic poetry in the middle. Each song is a dramatic set piece. She gives the familiar tunes, such as "Caravan," new twists, yet remains true to their emotional cores. Littlefield carries this off without strain. She's so natural the listeners will be ready to run off with her when they hear "Small Day Tomorrow," and sympathize with her psychological woes on her original, "Perfect Blues." The spare accompaniment of Weaver's horn only heightens the drama. He provides a resonant grounding. And his didgeridoo playing is more than the usual novelty. It adds an exotic touch that complements the New Age lyrics of "Footprints" and conjures an eerie atmosphere that helps revive "House of the Rising Sun" after so many raucous Blues-Rock renditions. The duo ends with a playful and lightly dancing "Jitterbug Waltz" that puts the exclamation point on this noteworthy session.
David Dupont (Cadence Magazine Oct 2009, p.219)