February 21, 2001
SCOTT ROSENBERG/ANTHONY BRAXTON
Barely Auditable bar 222
Appreciation of a first class session like this results when the listener can relate what appears to be a "difficult" saxophone duo to a cappella singing voices. What Anthony Braxton and Scott Rosenberg are doing with their massed woodwinds on the CD, after all, is approximating the different tones, textures and harmonies available to blended human voices.
Or take some time to mentally strip away the backing on popular songs like "Soul Man" from a duo like Sam & Dave. Note how the two voices compliment one another when harmonizing, take turns accompanying the other when someone sings lead, or produce counter melodies when each individual take off on vocal flights. That's what's going on here, but with saxophones and clarinets.
Chicago-based Rosenberg is particularly brave in his choice of partner on this disc. Composer/theorist/performer Braxton is an old hand at such combinations, and his cohorts in the past have been the loftiest sax experimenters: Steve Lacy, Evan Parker, Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell.
Notwithstanding that, Rosenberg, who is also a composer and who has gigged on both coasts with the likes of Mario Eneidi and Glenn Spearman acquits himself more than admirably. Moreover, it may be another compliment to say that with the rapid switching among their horns that the two do on many tracks, it's sometimes difficult to realize which tone comes from which woodwind player.
The young Chicagoan also deserves kudos for dragging Braxton away from his highly-stylized Ghost Trance Music, back to exercising his lips on the sort of reed-rattling improvisation that he has excelled at since he burst on the jazz scene with the solo FOR ALTO in 1969. This program is made up of two Braxton compositions, three of Rosenberg's and three free improvisations, that honesty don't sound that much different from the written material.
At 17 minutes plus, Rosenberg's "Eerhre" is the disc tour de force, sort of an extended fantasia for saxophones. With the younger man probably sticking to tenor and Braxton pulling out his C-melody, the two work in lockstep at the beginning, then switch to alto saxophones and clarinets as Rosenberg probes the heavens and Braxton unrolls a cushiony ostinato. Harmonizing in another section, they slowly separate into counter melodies, embellishments and finally double timing solos, filled with reed squeaks and lip trills. Eventually they return to mimicking each other's exchanges, before ending simultaneously.
Every horn gets brought into play on one of the eight tracks or another with both men stretching their lungs on the monster contrabass clarinet, which is used as much for its distinctive accompaniment sound as for its solo capacity.
No one should fear this extended essay on sex, cries and audiotape any more than if it was a recital by two chordal instruments. Together the two men have produced a constantly interesting CD. Not only should it draw folks to more works by Braxton, but it also should make most of us curious to see what Roseneberg can do on his own or in a more conventional group setting.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Stark 2. #168 3. Improvisation 4. Llnlr 5. Improvisation 6. #65 7. Improvisation 8. Eerhre
Personnel: Anthony Braxton (soprano, alto and C melody saxophones, flute, Bb, Eb contra alto and contrabass clarinets); Scott Rosenberg (sopranino, alto and tenor saxophones, contrabass clarinet)