The live recording at the Austrian Nickelsdorf festival is the only document of this Detroit-based trio, but its quality makes one wish for more. Both guitarist Spencer Barefield and percussionist Tani Tabbal have toured widely with various incarnations of Roscoe Mitchell's bands while saxophonist Anthony Holland has only recorded sporadically. However, as a unit with somewhat unusual instrumentation, they mesh superbly as improvisers and offer rich and provocative thematic structures for those flights of creativity.
The album consists of three longish pieces, one by each group member. Barefield's Xenogenesis (which he has recorded on his own several times) is a spiky number, filled with quick turns and off-kilter rhythms, easily handled by the group and used as a fine springboard by Holland on alto. Barefield switches to African harp (also known as a dawudaphone), Tabbal to tablas, and Holland to soprano sax for Tabbal's delightfully intricate, Eastern-tinged composition Hindola Spring, where group interpretation of the theme is given precedence over individual soloing. The final cut, Holland's "IOCAB-4" roars in with an angular motif reminiscent of early Braxton and continues on with aggressive solos from all members.
Live at Nickelsdorf is a little-known gem from the mid-'80s and also a fine example of the woefully under-recorded Detroit creative music scene. Highly recommended, especially to fans of the AACM and its descendents.