Real Braxton fans may not like this, but I think he's at his best when he doesn't compose, but just improvises. His compositions are often emotionally distant, intellectual exercises in form - open, repetitive, with ever changing patterns - but once he starts improvising ,the distance disappears and the soul enters. It's hard to describe, but that's how I experience it. It's the same on this double CD with two lengthy duets with Canadian saxophonist Kyle Brenders. Anthony Braxton plays soprano, sopranino and alto, while Kyle Brenders plays clarinet, soprano and tenor. But don't get me wrong. The composed parts, which are interspersed throughout the piece, work as great reference points, light-footed, minimalistic and odd, serving as the basis for the improvisations, and like little islands they can move back to after swimming in the improvised parts. Yet the real musical creativity is to be found in the improvisations, tonal excursions, rhythmic contrasts, nervous repetitive phrasing, staccato bird-like chattering contrasting with droning circular breathing, ... but whatever it is, the end result is one of disciplined freedom or freedom through discipline. With an emotional component in the improvisations. The premeditated intellectual aspect of composition, structure and mutual discussion enables the musicians to go beyond any on the spot improvisation. It opens new doors and musical opportunities. Two long pieces. Not much can be said about them. Just listen to the notes themselves.
Listen to an excerpt from "Composition 199" (selected for a transition from improvisation back to a composed piece after about 14 minutes into the first track)
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