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7 April 2010

Anthony Braxton / Derek Bailey - 'Duo 2' (Emanem)

This is the second half of a concert, which was split onto two records, but we only get to hear the second. It starts slow - slow enough that you can imagine they are just getting warmed up again after an intermission. Braxton shifts around between flute, soprano clarinet, regular clarinet, contrabass clarinet, soparino sax, and alto; there's a good bit of flute to start off, as he navigates the edges of the hall's ambience. And how you can hear it! Derek Bailey is dicking about with some prepared fretboard stuff, and the sputtering really echoes, to the point where you can imagine how well-behaved (or non-existent) the audience must be. Bailey is never exactly a smooth operator and here is no exception. When Braxton is flowing, Derek's like ripples in the stream, and when in the middle of side 1 Braxton gets into some proper sax bursts, Bailey feels totally lockstep with him. There are points where it sounds like Braxton is blowing through some cheap plastic tube - whether this is an effect of the clarinets or some weird form of technique, I'm not sure. The choppyness recedes a bit and the two end the side in some sort of dysfunctional harmony. I like it; it's a hell of an exploration of their instruments and it's nice to hear Braxton in a purely improvised setting, so far away from the jazz idiom. On side two, Derek is playing electric and he's rocking that tone/volume knob, creating tonal ebbs and flows that offset Braxton's shrill trills. The reverb, though electrified, still has a mindbending effect. These are birds, covered in coffee grinds, flying into mattresses. At some poinst there's a muddy pond that someone is skimming rocks across, and it ain't always Derek throwing them. By the end of these 43 minutes these guys have gone, almost hyperactively, through almost every sound you could imagine. There's a frantic buzzing alto section at the end during which Bailey is going all Django on us, and you realise why Emanem felt the need to document this meeting for commercial resale - because it is immense.

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