Sanda Weigl was born in Bucharest, Romania and spent her childhood steeped in the traditional songs and melodies of the Roma (or Gypsy) people. But as an adolescent she found herself in political exile in East Germany, absorbing the musical culture of Berlin's theater district, where she came to love the music of Brecht and Weill. Another displacement came when she was expelled as an enemy of the East German state and settled on the other side of the city for a time before finally relocating to New York, where she gravitated to the downtown scene and helped introduce such local celebrities as guitarist Marc Ribot and reedman Doug Wieselman to the rich heritage of Roma music. On Gypsy in a Tree you can clearly hear all of the influences of her past: there is a definite Brecht/Weill tinge to "Intr-o Zi la Poarta Mea" and a strong undertow of tango rhythms on both "Saraiman" and "Nu Exista-n Lumea Asta," while the album-closing "Alomalo" sounds like a polka as written by Ennio Morricone for a surrealist Western, and "Jandarmul" combines a dreamily (if ultimately drearily) arrhythmic jazz progression with a desultory tabla beat. Throughout the album, Weigl sings in a voice and in a style that both evoke Edith Piaf in a Gypsy bar, and there's a general mood of longing and regret; but occasionally the light shines through, as on the sprightly and fun "Ani Mei Si Tineretea," and moments like that one give this album an unusual richness of emotional texture. Gypsy in a Tree may not grab you immediately, but it's worth multiple listens.
AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson