On the back of Johan Berke’s CD titled The Cactus Suite it lists all the players on this album but also says with guests: Jan Eriksson on lap and pedal and Barry Cleveland on soundscape (tape). Given their contribution and playing on this album, it should read with special guests. Guitarist and composer Johan Berke was commissioned by Bergius Foundation to write a suite for the tenth anniversary of the opening of The Edvard Anderson Greenhouse in Stockholm. He came back with The Cactus Suite.
"The Cactus Suite" runs almost 27 minutes and is comprised of four parts or movements. Barry Cleveland adds what is labeled as soundscape or tape to part three or track nine titled "Desert Moon" - this is a moving piece. It could work with the out the Cleveland addition but it would lose it full value. Berke’s lines throughout the entire album are excellent. He stays back when needed but upfronts when needed, especially on "‘Round the Corner". The two shot pieces titled "Short, but Sweet No. 5" and "Short, but Sweet No. 6" are magnificent. In a way, an expansion of those would be welcome. Tenor and Alto saxophonist Fredrik Nordstrom along with Orjan Hulten add very vibrant color to all the pieces - listen to "Worm".
With any suite or work, the drumming is brought up to the forefront on most occasions. While this holds true for some compositions, the drumming of Fredrik Rundqvist shines here, especially on "The Cactus Suite" side but also he moves through "Loose Ends" with well not loose ends.
The Johan Berke Upstairs Five has a very good to great album. All the pieces are vibrant, well written and well recorded. The group interplay is amazing, with this album, you can not go wrong.