Anthony Braxton and Fred Frith each have about as close a relationship to the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville as just about any non-Canadians. The first release on Victo, the label run by the producers of the annual Canadian festival, was a guitar duo with Frith and Rene Lussier; the second was a duet between Braxton and Derek Bailey. Until this year, each had released three discs on the label. But 2005 was the Year of Braxton and the label has released three new Braxton titles recorded during last year's festival, including this duo with Frith.
Over just under an hour's time, Braxton and Frith show more than anything else what it means to be a master improviser: not quoting past masters, not riffing off each other, but simply playing with conviction and having the patience, fortitude, technique and vision to stick with and develop ideas without inflating egos. Braxton's saxophones tend to stand out front, if only for the nature of the loud, monophonic instruments, while Frith loops and manipulates his electric guitar, creating multiple beds and often sounding like an entire backup band for his partner's solos.
The things that could be remarkable about this disc—the crossing of the players' backgrounds (jazz/rock-improv), heritage (Chicago/England) and race; the improv meeting of two accomplished composers; the chance to hear two professors (Wesleyan University/Mills College) roll up their sleeves—aren't. Nor does the recording beg for the promise of an ongoing collaboration. It is what it is, a chance encounter that paid off royally.