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Kevin Norton: For Guy DeBord

On Norton’s prior album, the excellent Knots, he wrote a piece to feature clarinetist David Krakauer. Here one of his goals is to highlight the playing of Anthony Braxton, who appears on alto and sopranino saxophones and contrabass clarinet. Other group members include David Bindman, tenor sax, flute and conga; Bob DeBellis, alto and flute; Tomas Ulrich, cello; and Joe Fonda, bass. Norton, who plays trap drums, percussion and vibes, has worked frequently with Braxton, and there’s an affinity between them.

For Guy DeBord has nine sections or “events,” on which Norton employs varied instrumental combinations. It begins with a vibes-alto sax duet, followed by Braxton on contrabass clarinet with the vibes and two flutes. After a brief cymbal-gong statement, there’s an arco cello, pizzicato bass duet that Braxton joins on sopranino. The fifth section, played by the ensemble, thickens gradually in texture, then thins, followed by unaccompanied bass and drum solos, a rich-toned cello spot with spare accompaniment and then the vibes, with an alto duet at the end. Obviously, there’s a lot of timbral exploration going on here. Norton’s use of fresh and varied textures ranks among the album’s highlights. Braxton turns in laudable alto work during the first and last sections; check his use of unusual intervals.

In both his writing and playing Norton displays much subtlety, imagination and originality. He’s got a direction and hopefully will continue to expand what have been his impressive accomplishments to date.

Originally Published