Anthony Braxton

4 Improvisations (Duets) 2004

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4 Improvisations (Duets) 2004 Review

by François Couture

First of all, let's set the record straight. It is Walter Frank, not "Franks," who makes his recording debut here. Getting your name misspelled on the cover of your first album qualifies as tough luck, but having your name, spelled right or wrong, placed alongside Anthony Braxton's on that same debut album evens things out. Frank's background is in contemporary music. He has performed works by post-minimalist composer William Duckworth and was a student at Wesleyan University when this double set was recorded. His thundering, rather flamboyant style at the piano offers an unusual match with Anthony Braxton. Remaining tonal for the most part, the young man alternates between hammered chords or clusters and cascading scales. His improvising ideas revolve closer to instant composition than free improvisation, something illustrated right from the start of "Improvisation 1," where the first three notes he plays are an echo of Braxton's first phrase. A lot of these ideas are quite interesting, like his flurries of low-register clusters topped by a one-note leitmotif in "Improvisation 1." But his ample sound often pushes Braxton's saxophones away. As usual, the teacher lets the student have his way and weaves snake-charming lines through the interstices. One of his strongest qualities resides in being able to gracefully highlight his partner's strengths, and 4 Improvisations (Duets) 2004 may be one of the best illustrations of this aspect of his art. There are two pieces on each CD of this two-CD set, with each track between 22 and 27 minutes in duration. "Improvisation 1" is particularly interesting for the way the musicians immediately connect. "Improvisation 4" provides the set's highlight, with very acute listening and a thrilling circular breathing run from Braxton.

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