By Ken Waxman
Perhaps Anthony Braxton's most uncommon yet satisfying CD of the past decade, TrioTone is memorable because the American saxophonist functions as part of an improvising trio rather than promulgating his own ideas.
Recorded on a busman's holiday to Serbia-Montenegro in 2003, the disc features Braxton operating as one-third of a cooperative trio convened to play two compositions by Hungarian pianist György Szabados, which led to three subsequent encore/improvisations. Braxton, who is always up for unique collaborations, played and recorded with Szabados in the early '80s. Adding luster to the match up is the presence of former Ganelin Trio percussionist Vladimir Tarasov, who is based in Vilnius, Lithuania.
"Trioton," the 32-minute showpiece of the CD, reflects those compositional smarts. Organized in a theatrical fashion, with each musician expressing his delineated role, there are times when the piece could be a radio drama with the instruments taking the place of the actors' voices. Zestful and refreshing, the thirty-plus minutes flash by with the speed of a three-minute pop song. Set up by gentle clinks on Tarasov's cymbals, claves and bells, interspersed with silences, the initial statement arises from the flutter and buzz of Braxton's saxophone plus single low-frequency piano chords from the composer.
Soon Szabados' wiggling arpeggios have been dynamically transformed into a two-handed prelude that's reminiscent of some of Cecil Taylor's orchestral work. With taps, rattles, and shakes from the percussionist operating as a bed on which the disciplined close voicing of the piano keys lie to extend the theme, Braxton moves to the forefront, working out oblique double-tongued variations. Behind him, Szabados' contributions reflect his dual background, at times as straightforward as Wynton Kelly, often this side of florid, as per a romantic recital pattern. Rumbled snares and toms midway through cause the saxman to reed bites as his higher overtones vibrate out a secondary, complementary theme.
A reminder of Tarasov's little-heard dexterity, Braxton's teamwork as an instrumentalist, and the scope of Szabados' compositional power almost unknown in the West, TrioTone is an archetypal achievement.
Track Listing: Trioton; Black Toots; Improvisation 1; 2; 3.
Personnel: Anthony Braxton: sopranino, soprano, alto saxophone; Gy
| Year Released: 2005
| Record Label: Leo Records