Braxton and Neidlinger’s 2 By 2 is a resurrected set from 1989, recorded live at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, which explains the sparse but polite applause, which is tentative, at times, at the end of solos. Braxton and Neidlinger convey a sense of urgency; they have something they need to get out, thick and furious. They plug into each other to complete a composite organism; a symbiotic business.
Braxton pushes bebop vocabulary until it starts to shred, screeching at its edges. Parts of his passionately ragged solos sound like gutbucket R&B, but then again, under his fingers and frantic half-second breaths, four saxophones in sequence become sweet fluttering flutes, woodsy clarinets, sonorous strings, flat-brassed trumpets. Neidlinger, impeccable and steady, pulls out one soft-shoe after another on his walking bass lines, slipping lyrically into arco logic, a stream pushing at some downed reeds until it clears the obstruction and redoubles its rushing.

Five Thelonious Monk tunes ground the duo in Monk’s Wonderland logic, but they make and take their own methodology, with shouts out to Xenakis, LaMonte Young, a snatch of “Harlem Nocturne.” Symbiotic business is good. Take this one home for the sake of commerce, nature, vitality, testimony, and possibility.