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2 By 2

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Audio CD, January 25, 2012
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Editorial Reviews


Spanning several decades, progressive-jazz and improvisational icon Anthony Braxton has been no stranger to duet settings amid his large and small ensemble aggregations. Therefore, this 2-CD program recorded live in 1989 is the artist's fruitful collaboration with bassist Buell Neidlinger, noted for his work with Cecil Taylor, Steve Lacy, and educational duties at the New England Conservatory. It's a varied mix, highlighting the artists' resourcefulness. And they use space as a prominent metric or to fast forward time, especially when Braxton's reed-work encompasses a gamut of high-strung phrasings. Moreover, he uses vibrato to sing a melody, and alters the momentum via gruff choruses and super-speed flurries, complemented by Neidlinger's firm and pliantly executed lines. The duo's symmetry is a key factor. Hence, the musicians seemingly cover all possible angles and discourses while covering several Thelonious Monk compositions and improvisational pieces. Monk's classic Well, You Needn't is given extended treatment. Here, Braxton circles around the primary theme with his C-melody sax and tenders a consortium of emotive aspects. With bristling breakouts and yearning notes he also dishes out a few frenzied segments, often underscored by Neidlinger's contrapuntal maneuvers and juxtaposing statements. Interestingly enough, Braxton closes the piece with a literal reading of the primary melody, offering a conventional outlook to a briskly moving deconstruction effort. Indeed, a largely captivating program that should garner the interest of the respective artists' longtime admirers. Otherwise, the musicians' fusion of artful expressionism and superb technical faculties yield the bountiful fruit. -- --Glen Astarita - jazzreview.com

(Performance: 4 1/2 stars; Sonics: 4 1/2 stars) Fresh from their collaboration (with Mal Waldron and Billy Osborne) on Six Monk's Compositions (1987), in 1989 Anthony Braxton and Buell Neidlinger performed as a duo at McCabe's Guitar Shop, in Santa Monica, California. That intimate environment made for absorbing, deeply connected performances, and finally these master musicians have released a strong two-disc document of them. There are ample opportunities for Braxton's volcanic solos to overload the signal, but that doesn't happen. In fact, we hear a range of timbral subtleties from his four saxophones, and a clear, woody tone from Neidlinger's full-bodied bass. Musically and sonically, the duo is consistently in balance.          Braxton and Neidlinger devote almost half the program to Thelonious Monk's music, including two takes of Off Minor. Braxton plays with restraint on the melodies of Criss-Cross and Well, You Needn't, then stretches furiously. Neidlinger, unfazed, lays down mid-tempo walking grooves, but also allows Braxton to lure him outside.       The non-Monk pieces are improvisations that Neidlinger titled long after the fact. Tonight the Night, dedicated to the late Greek composer Iannis Xenakis, appears on both discs (the second version segues into Off Minor long before the track listing indicates). Ballade in F begins with tense melodic musings on C-melody sax, while High Flightends disc 1 with a full-tilt freak-out on unaccompanied sopranino. Exodust, a three-minute sketch in poignant rubato, ends the encounter in surprisingly tonal fashion. --David R. Adler - STEREOPHILE Magazine

Anthony Braxton and Buell Neidlinger could have dug into any number of concepts in a duo performance, considering the saxophonist s prolific output and the bassist s far-ranging résumé (Cecil Taylor s original quartet, Frank Zappa and orchestra gigs) and his love of composers like Xenakis. Although these two sets from 1989 feature a lot of spontaneous invention, a few Thelonious Monk classics link everything together. Two years prior, Neidlinger played on Braxton s Six Monk s Compositions (1987), so the rapport was already established before they hit the stage at McCabe s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, Calif. Unlike the pianist who composed the pieces, our heroes use Monk s themes as jumping-off points, in Braxton s case for a never-ending stream of ideas. Neidlinger walks steadily through the changes behind him, an admirable task considering the leaps Braxton makes in Criss Cross or the directions he takes in general. The nine choruses on Well, You Needn t are almost excessive, but the clarity of his double-time playing keeps it impressive; it also inspires Neidlinger s strongest solo, which includes some slippery double stops. Round Midnight can challenge anyone who attempts to add something new to the tune, but this brief rendition ends after one chorus, with Neidlinger playing the melody, making it a wise and clever take. Braxton, as usual, plays a variety of saxophones throughout, this time sticking closer to the higher-ranged, portable ones. Tonight the Night [sic] which sounds spontaneous but begins with the same theme in both sets finds him going from sopranino to soprano and alto in the first set, building up a furious energy that almost sounds like two horns blurring together when he returns to soprano toward the end. He also whips out the C-melody sax during the second set, and the audience sounds more enthusiastic than the polite crowd in the first. Fans of Braxton s For Alto squonk will devour this set, which also features dizzying soprano runs that evoke John Coltrane s climactic moments in My Favorite Things with a higher-octane blow. When Off Minor reappears at the end of the second set, in a shorter form, it flows easily out of the second Tonight the Night, as if to prove that these two consider both styles with a similar passion. Likewise, these recordings may be more than two decades old, but they sound as fresh as if they were recorded last week. --Mike Shanley - Jazz Times

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Off Minor
  2. Tonight the Night (for Iannis Xenakis)
  3. Ballade in F
  4. Criss-Cross
  5. 'Round Midnight
  6. High Flight

Disc: 2

  1. Well, You Needn't
  2. Blue As We Can Be
  3. Cellular Connection
  4. 2 At once (for La Monte Young)
  5. Straight, No Chaser
  6. Tonight The Night
  7. Off Minor
  8. Exodust

Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 25, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: K2B2 Records
  • ASIN: B006RY49YG
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #419,195 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Stuart Jefferson TOP 100 REVIEWER on January 26, 2012
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Two discs-44,58 minutes in length each approximately. The sound is very good-both musicians were recorded fairly close-mic'd, and the sound is full yet slightly warm. The four page booklet (including both covers) has an essay on the musicians and the music. The discs are snapped inside a double jewel case.

This has been an exciting time for Braxton fans (like me), with the recently released multi-disc set on Black Saint/Soul Note, and now this fine set of duets. Braxton fans will remember the album "Six Monk Compositions" (included in the above box set), from 1987, which had Braxton paired up with bassist Buell Neidlinger. This set (recorded in 1989), is a combination of Braxton's ethereal playing and Neidlinger's solid, warm bass playing. On this set Braxton plays alto, soprano, sopranino, and C-melody saxophones. Neidlinger is heard on an upright bass, once owned by the great Al McKibbon-who played with Monk using this same instrument. It's a shame that Neidlinger isn't more well known. Jazz fans may remember him playing on several fine Cecil Taylor albums from many years ago. He deserves to be more well known.

The duo played two sets of music, each on it's respective disc. For fans of Thelonious Monk and/or Braxton's interpretation of Monk's music, there are five Monk compositions-"Off Minor", "Criss-Cross", "'Round Midnight", "Well, You Needn't", and "Straight, No Chaser". There's one track written by Gil Evans-"La Nevada". The other eight compositions are by Braxton and/or Neidlinger. Neidlinger has given the non-Monk/Evans tunes arbitrary titles, simply because no one can accurately remember the true titles of these tunes played, now, so long ago.
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Little change, development, over and over no place to go...always a dead end...will not listen to again. Note I have heard Braxton sounding very interesting and busy with energy long ago.
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