logo   Duo (Amsterdam) 1991 (OD12018)
 
Musicians Anthony Braxton — soprano sax, clarinet, flute, alto sax
Georg Gräwe — piano
Cover and Artwork cover

Cover art: Albert Oehlen
Graphic design: Louise Molnar
Photos: Sa Schloff, Nick White

Songs

1. Duet I (25:12) (MPEG2)
2. Duet II (16:00) (MPEG2)
3. Duet III (4:43)
total time: 45:55

Compositions by Anthony Braxton (Synthesis/BMI), Georg Gräwe (Random Acoustics/GEMA)

Recording Info

Recorded live at October Meeting 1991, Amsterdam, Holland at Christofori

Recorded by: Chris Weeda
Produced by: John Corbett
Executive Producer: Bruno Johnson

Reviews *** (3 stars)

To the best of our understanding, these two long, one short pieces were spontaneously improvised, with no predetermined logic or direction for the music. Even so, there are continual hints and reminders of Braxton’s current compositional interests, palindromic shapes and stretching pulses, which suggest the extent to which he used public performance of this sort as a laboratory for ideas which would take on a more detailed form later. Braxton’s flute and clarinet playing is extremely impressive, the former especially.

— Richard Cook & Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, fifth edition


Piano-and-saxophone jazz duets have a special appeal. The best strike a balance between the piano’s harmonic richness and the saxophone’s color and line. They can have the intimacy of a two way conversation or capitalize on the grand scale made possible by the piano’s orchestral potential. New releases by the duos of Anthony Braxton & Georg Gräwe and Steve Lacy & Mal Waldron attest to the format’s limitless possibilities. These days, Braxton’s occasional duet projects are pretty much busman’s holidays from composing. He’s generally in a relaxed and generous mood when he does them, though some have sounded as if he were merely going through the motions. This is decidedly not the case on Duo (Amsterdam) 1991 (OkkaDisk), a challenging, enormously exciting set of improvisations with German pianist Georg Gräwe. Like Braxton’s most satisfying keyboard partner, Marilyn Crispell, Georg Gräwe brings quick reflexes to the music and a style that mixes contemporary classical and free jazz vocabularies in a densely detailed, confrontational style that leaves Braxton no choice but to meet him head on. It takes a few minutes for them to settle down, but sparks fly after they find their bearings about a third of the way into the first of the album’s three improvisations. Braxton, on alto, slowly paces long meandering lines as Gräwe gathers steam. As treble bursts and bass-clef rumbles surge in waves beneath him, Braxton fades back and lets the pianist have the foreground for a dancing staccato passage. The performance advances and retreats several more times, but the flow of the music is natural and firmly directed. The last two duets are even more focused and intense than the first. "Duet II" begins in relative tranquility, but Braxton is soon scattering saw-toothed triplets and sounding the alarm with shockingly human-sounding alto-saxophone wails. Gräwe gallops along the rutted road of Braxton’s solo, rapidly jabbing his own spiky lines in Braxton’s. Apparently spent by the expenditure of energy, they subside while Braxton switches to soprano saxophone, but Gräwe kicks the music back into high gear and takes the upper hand as they draw to a conclusion. The short "Duet 11" is an explosion of rippling, intertwining lines that ends the performance on an ecstatic high note.

- Ed Hazell, The Boston Phoenix, June 20, 1997


In agrarian times, man had to rely on the phases of the moon to mark the passing of months. Today one can accomplish the same thing by monitoring the pace of new Anthony Braxton releases. Braxton-watching would certainly make the harvesting of crops a more entertaining activity, even though it can be a daunting task from the a non-agricultural standpoint. Finding an entry point, grasping the vocabulary of the stylized language, and understanding the trajectory of the music can be a full-time obsession. It certainly is for its creator, who besides achieving the ancillary goal of rendering calendars irrelevant, seems bent on documenting his life as a composition-in-progress. The cynic might characterize Braxton’s fecundity as a symptom of his academia, where “the need to be recorded” fulfills the role that “the need to be published” plays in other scholarly pursuits. And in a way, it is hard not to see a deluge of records as anything other than the means by which to justify grants or stuff resumes. But even if that is the case, seldom has career advancement sounded so good.

The latest addition to Braxton’s CV is a case in point. This OkkaDisk gives us duo improvisation of a high order, recorded live and without a net in Amsterdam back in 1991. At the heart of the CD reside two extended duets clocking in at 25 and 16 minutes, respectively. They both take a little while to get warmed up, initially muddling about in some stuffy, conservatory noodle that excites me about as much as ECM cover art. But just as things appear to be drifting a little too far astray, Braxton starts clicking and clucking his reed and instantly the proceedings transform into something entirely worthwhile. Of course, Braxton is the known quantity here, switching back and forth among his battery of reeds and woodwinds like the AACM veteran that he is. And while he doesn’t necessarily bring us anything new or groundbreaking this time around, Braxton has a way of working through his instruments like a nimble and thoughtful scholar, masterfully reshaping familiar arguments and articulating them in a fresh, convincing manner. In the opposing corner is Georg Gräwe, a new name for me. A pianist, probably German but possibly hailing from one of those lovely Benelux countries, Gräwe is well matched with Braxton here, touching his keys with all the efficient precision of a classically versed Northern European. In terms of Continental pianists, Gräwe has more in common with von Schlippenbach’s cerebral elegance than Borah Bergman’s sturm und drang, easily navigating through Braxton’s tonal mazes as if he were reciting Schumann at a garden party. I recall reading that this is one of Gräwe’s finest moments on record, and if that statement hints at the slightest bit of truth, I feel fortunate that I was able to meet him on such favorable terms.

— Chris Crowson, Tuba Frenzy #4 (1998)

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