Anthony Braxton

8 Duets: Hamburg 1991

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Recorded in a Hamburg studio, these eight compositions are marked by the "new" distinction in that they were written for duet with a double bass, with the exception of one, "40a," which is hardly new but has never before been recorded; it was not scored specifically for duet. The eight works here are from Braxton's 150 series, and are numbered "152" through "157" with "157" being recorded twice. Aside form the bass role, Braxton himself plays everything from alto to contrabasse clarinet and flute. These compositions are critical in understanding the structure of Braxton's middle to late work. These pieces are all based on the idea that melodic infrastructure comes from both sides of a rhythmic equation, and that the extension of harmony and timbre are given utterance as a result of their entwined, not separate voices. Consequently for a large part of these proceedings, Mr. Wilson uses a bow and does splendid arco work, offering the significant color differentiations Braxton requires for his own lyric statements. When Wilson plays staccato and pizzicato he reflects the ever-shifting rhythmic orientation of Braxton's tonal world (both takes of "157"). For the most part, though, what sets these works apart from much of Braxton's sizeable canon is their knotty melodic structures, which involve various breathing techniques to it all pull off. The long note, cross tone approach displayed on "155" for bass clarinet, as it moves the melodic knot down the register, and as the breathing of the performer scales itself down, is one example, and the circular breathing in "157" is another. There are many other knotty vocabularies in the 150 series, where chromatic minimalism is interspersed with microtonal improvisation and even serial technique. This is a fascinating disc due in large part of Mr. Wilson's truly virtuoso playing of very difficult material, and for the rugged emotionalism Braxton puts into his own performance here.

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