Wadada Leo Smith/Anthony Braxton: Organic Resonance

Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and reedist Anthony Braxton haven’t made an album together since the late ’70s, so these duo recordings (their first), made in 2003 at Tonic in New York City, are indeed an event. Each musician has contributed two compositions to Organic Resonance, and Saturn, Conjunct the Grand Canyon in a Sweet Embrace features two pieces by Smith and one by Braxton.

There is enormous variety of feeling and approach not just from track to track but within each performance, though describing these things is challenging. For instance, one could say that a great deal of Braxton’s “Composition No. 315” (from Organic Resonance) unfolds as a series of apparently unrelated horn lines that are either very fast or very slow, but to write about how this feels completely different than passages in other pieces that could be described the same way is very difficult. Obviously the music is very modern, with Smith at the far end of his stylistic spectrum from his late Miles bag, though one can certainly trace the way uses space back to Davis, just as one can find all kinds of antecedents for Braxton, from Benny Carter to Lee Konitz to Eric Dolphy. Some of my favorite moments occur when the two horns converge unexpectedly for ensemble passages (around the 10:00 mark of “Composition No. 316” on Saturn, for example) that are more than a bit reminiscent of the great Bobby Bradford and John Carter duo recordings.

It’s great to hear these two together again, bringing a whole generation’s worth of additional experience to an association that always had a real magic to it. A must for listeners who enjoy the great musical outdoors.