ANTHONY BRAXTON / JOËLLE LÉANDRE – Duo (Heidelberg Loppem) 2007


What is immediately noticed after listening to this double CD, marking a rare duo encounter between two masters, is that Léandre doesn’t seem all that much interested in her distinctive theatrics and operatic vocalizations. She does use the voice, but in a subdued way during a number of severe exchanges. One is brought to think of a sort of concentrated inviolability without the pomp, the musicians perfectly aware of the fact that this an occasion in which what’s stated will not be amended or retracted, and that the ensuing recording should be as clear as possible in terms of instantaneous creation of art and discernible intuition.

Braxton’s intelligent pressure (explicated through sopranino, soprano and alto saxes and contrabass clarinet) is garrulously foresighted. The exceptionality of his spiralling voraciousness is highlighted by a unique capacity of remaining confined within the limits of essentiality, so that a swarm of notes is perceived as a wholeness, not as a demonstration of technical dexterity (because, let’s face it, remarking about the latter would be hopelessly pathetic). Léandre builds upon grounds of guttural timbres and outstanding flights across both the pure and impure frequencies of the bass’ strings, a plain-spoken individuality cooperating with Braxton in the joint despoliation of improvisational compatibility from superfluous lustre and less-than-deep meanings.

This is a traditional example of the near-uselessness of a review given the names involved, alone enough to certify the virtual impossibility of expressing artistry under the level of excellence. You just need to relax and unfasten the mind’s locks, welcoming discursive whirlwinds, profound ruminations and atypical explorations of the instrumental registers with equal attentiveness and pleasure.

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