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Anthony Braxton and Joe Fonda: Ten Compositions (Duet) 1995

Ishmael Reed once wrote that a book under review was not reader-friendly but that, as a writer, he thought the performance was excellent. My feelings for this release are similar. Braxton is a unique figure to say the least. His way of expanding things often has more affinity for Lennie Tristano than Coltrane or Dolphy (strong influences nonetheless), which has earned him some rather amazing vilification in the past. The more obvious fact that his sound is right out of Benny Carter has somehow escaped notice.

I see Braxton as a major figure and everything he does has value. This record is not the best place to get to know him, but devotees will find a lot to like. There a moments of real communication with bassist Fonda, whose overall willingness to take a back seat is not a drawback but plain good sense. The thing that one warms to after a couple of listens is that the pacing and development of the original pieces is extremely convincing. I can’t always follow what Braxton is putting together on the two standards, but then I have the same reaction to Tristano at times. Even here, the sheer mastery of the sax should make him required listening for aspirants.

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