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Multi reed player and composer Anthony Braxton has been called a genius by some and for very good reason. He is one of the most restlessly innovative and intelligently idiosyncratic contemporary musicians. He seamlessly erases the boundaries between the composed and the improvised and his works brim equally with fresh and progressive ideas as well as concepts rooted in both the modern classical and the early free jazz traditions.
Delmark Records has reissued on CD his Trio and Duet (Sackville, 1974) and the two different sets that comprise the album are the perfect showcase of Braxton's artistic acumen. The first is a single, long original named in Braxton's signature manner "Hm- -421||(Rts)|47." Electronics maestro Richard Teitelbaum creates the organically fluid and haunting backdrop against which Braxton, on clarinet and contrabass clarinet, engages trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith in provocative duets with angular lyricism. Braxton's contemplative and vibrato laden monologue unfolds over Smith's meandering, melancholic lines. The mood of this cinematic piece shifts from the disquiet with Smith and Braxton's riotous interplay to the serenely futuristic as Braxton's hypnotic percussion blends with Teitelbaum's dramatic Moog drone.
The second session is quite different as it includes five standards that Braxton, on alto saxophone, and bassist Dave Holland deconstruct with brilliant wit and imaginative ingenuity. On "Embraceable You," for instance Braxton honks and squawks while Holland lets loose delightfully dark and deep reverberations as they rebuilt the song with inventive and passionate spontaneity.
"You Go To My Head," meanwhile, is taken as two simultaneous and overlapping stream of consciousness soliloquys with stimulating, dissonant interjections. Holland's thrilling and intricate solo expresses his virtuosic instrumentalism and unique approach to extemporization. The duo starts "On Green Dolphin Street" more traditionally, as they state the main theme before they gradually transform its basic elements into a new and intriguing harmonic construct that nevertheless maintains the tune's melodic spirit.
Even after four decades this superb record sounds cutting edge and gripping. It is both a career high point (one of many) for Braxton as well as a testament of his prodigious talent. Thanks to Delmark's acquisition of the Sackville catalogue it, once again, can be widely enjoyed by creative music aficionados.
Composition No. 36; The Song Is You; Embraceable You; You Go to My Head; On Green Dolphin Street; I Remember You.
Anthony Braxton: clarinet, contrabass clarinet, chimes and bass drum (1), alto saxophone (2-6); Leo Smith: trumpet, flugelhorn, pocket trumpet, percussion and small instruments (1); Richard Teitelbaum: Moog synthesizer and percussion (1); Dave Holland: bass (2-6).