SoundDance presents the great Muhal Richard Abrams in two very different but equally fascinating free improv duets. The first and more traditional of the two is with saxophone great Fred Anderson, recorded in 2009. Despite being co-founders of the AACM in the mid-'60s, this is their first release together. The fact that Anderson almost always played with a rhythm section (certainly a drummer at least), and almost never played with piano, makes this a particularly interesting set. Here, Abrams and Anderson are equals: grabbing ideas from each other and transforming them along the way. Their mastery of space and dynamics makes for a brilliant conversation over the course of nearly 40 minutes. Both men were about eighty years old at the time of recording, and both were at the absolute peak of their powers. It's some of the most melodic free improvisation you will ever hear, and a truly breathtaking and amazing piece of music. This also proves to be an especially poignant set, as it could be the final recording of Fred Anderson, who died less than a year later after this show.
Recorded in 2010, the second set with George Lewis on trombone and electronics (mostly electronics) is very, very different. Muhal plays a more dominant role here as there isn't a whole lot of melodic content in the electronics. They play more of a textural role that Abrams reacts to rather than a true conversation as with Anderson. Even when Lewis plays trombone, it's more textural than melodic much of the time. Lewis' electronics at times get close to some of Merzbow's more gentle work, but Abrams remains undaunted, using a bit more dissonance in his playing to match up with the electronic sounds. It's really fascinating to hear how Muhal responds in this setting, proving once again he's one of the finest improvisers on the planet. This is the Old Guard of Chicago jazz and AACM ideals at their best. SoundDance is unqualified genius.