Spanning several decades, progressive-jazz and improvisational icon Anthony Braxton has been no stranger to duet settings amid his large and small ensemble aggregations. Therefore, this 2-CD program recorded live in 1989 is the artist's fruitful collaboration with bassist Buell Neidlinger, noted for his work with Cecil Taylor, Steve Lacy, and educational duties at the New England Conservatory.
It's a varied mix, highlighting the artists' resourcefulness. And they use space as a prominent metric or to fast forward time, especially when Braxton's reed-work encompasses a gamut of high-strung phrasings. Moreover, he uses vibrato to sing a melody, and alters the momentum via gruff choruses and super-speed flurries, complemented by Neidlinger's firm and pliantly executed lines. The duo's symmetry is a key factor. Hence, the musicians seemingly cover all possible angles and discourses while covering several Thelonious Monk compositions and improvisational pieces.
Monk's classic "Well, You Needn't" is given extended treatment. Here, Braxton circles around the primary theme with his C-melody sax and tenders a consortium of emotive aspects. With bristling breakouts and yearning notes he also dishes out a few frenzied segments, often underscored by Neidlinger's contrapuntal maneuvers and juxtaposing statements. Interestingly enough, Braxton closes the piece with a literal reading of the primary melody, offering a conventional outlook to a briskly moving deconstruction effort. Indeed, a largely captivating program that should garner the interest of the respective artists' longtime admirers. Otherwise, the musicians' fusion of artful expressionism and superb technical faculties yield the bountiful fruit.