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Two masters of improvisation and innovation realign for a series of three duet pieces, spanning two discs, captured live at the Heidelberg Cafe in Belgium. Pulling out the proverbial stops as contrasts abound, Anthony Braxton switch-hits on reeds while bassist Joelle Leandre delivers contrapuntal responses amid the duo's role-reversal undertakings.
It would normally equate to a challenge, specifically in these rather adventurous improv settings, but it's a continual and rather swerving plot, defined by Braxton and Léandre's serrated phrasings. They impart a confederacy of contrasts, teeming with the customary peaks, valleys and points of no return. Here, lyricism is a fleeting ideological occurrence that regenerates, as penitent melodies coalesce with foreboding insinuations and highly-emotive crescendos.
Léandre's sinuous arco passages offer a limber and pliant undercurrent for Braxton's 16th note flurries and accentuating rhythmic gestures. The plot evolves in energized fashion; whether lowering the temperature and delving inward, or executing rambunctious choruses, the duo renders interconnecting theme-building exercises, often tingled with moments of vim, vigor and challenging confrontations.
Braxton dissects themes with the motion of a buzz-saw when performing on sopranino and soprano saxophones, with Léandre keeping pace, occasionally providing lyric-less chants. Another all-encompassing aspect to these performances pertains to the abrupt transitions from microscopic detail to fervent and brash dialogues. The overall program juggles the nerve endings and provides a gargantuan feast for the mind's eye. Would we expect anything less from these pioneers? Apparently not, as the duo meets and perhaps exceeds high-level expectations throughout the invigorating listening experience.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.