liner notes to Duets 1976 with Muhal Richard Abrams (Arista AL 4101)
by Anthony Braxton

In the last couple of years I have noticed an abundance of duo records, of all kinds of combinations—and hopefully this is more than just a trend—but rather, an accepted and challenging area of creative music that has been rediscovered.  This particular date has given me a chance to renew musical ties with Muhal Richard Abrams and I am grateful that our work has been documented on this record.  My involvement with Muhal goes back to 1966 when Roscoe Mitchell brought me into the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians to become a member—in that period Muhal was president of the organization.  The time that I spent in the AACM was the single most important period in my involvement with music and the cornerstone from which my foundation was to actualize.  I have tried to select material that could show the dynamics of our particular instrumentation, and material that would be comfortable for Muhal and myself as well.

Functionally, the duet situation gives the greatest possibilities for establishing an affinity relationship with another musician on a one to one basis.  This is especially true of the more open-ended forms where an improvisation is directly affected by both musicians on an equal plane, rather than the 'soloist with support' situation only.  All of the pieces on this record determine the nature of that relationship—in other words, the use of a piece, like Maple Leaf Rag allows for a different approach than say—'Miss Ann', and I felt we needed both approaches for a balanced presentation.  I have contributed three compositions on this date and of these works, two compositions were designed for the 'controlled' open-ended situation—that is to say: all of the elements and sequences in these works have been prepared in advance.  The performances on this record could best be understood as 'actualization' of a given conceptual and structural path, rather than versions of a given theme.  The remaining track on this record (Nickie) is actually an improvisation which was done on the spot.  After listening to the playback, I felt the music we played had somehow captured something essential to this period of my life, and I appreciated Muhal letting me dedicate the improvisation to my wife.  The piece for contrabase saxophone is included for both timbre purposes as well as the fact that I am simply fascinated by the lower sound spectrum—and whenever the opportunity arises—I intend to continue this direction.  Continued thanks to Steve Backer and Michael Cuscuna for the help that they have given me.  I hope that this record can be enjoyed.

Anthony Braxton

These notes republished with the permission of Anthony Braxton.

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