Roscoe Mitchell


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Duets is just that, a series of duos with the two reed masters and old buddies from the AACM, with Mitchell composing the pieces on the first side of the vinyl issue and Braxton penning those on side B. Mitchell's run the gamut, beginning with the darkly gorgeous opener that features Braxton's contrabass clarinet nestling evocatively beneath the composer's earthy flute. On "Line Fine Lyon Seven," a composition Mitchell would return to often in the next couple of decades, Braxton chugs delightfully along the funky road on his totally unwieldy contrabass saxophone, sounding like a large, old truck. Mitchell's other pieces investigate the sparer, more abstract realm, as the duo's wide variety of reeds populate the sonic environment with scattered moans, squeaks, and pops. The Braxton pieces (titled in diagrammatic form on the album, listed below as indicated in Francesco Martinelli's Braxton discography) begin with one of his patented loony marches; one can imagine a high-school band careening into the stands while attempting to negotiate this number. This is followed by a lovely, lyrical duet for flutes, a work that belies Braxton's reputation as calculating and methodical; this is closer to birdsong. The final track is a knottier affair; much of the piece is structured as a single line in two parts, with Mitchell's soprano abutting and continuing Braxton's contrabass clarinet phrases in increasingly frenetic fashion, eventually reaching a truce at the end. Overall, this is a fine meeting between two of the most forward-looking thinkers and players in the music. Recommended.

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