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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.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.