Maybe Anthony Braxton has the right idea: Forget about drums, forget about bass; as a matter of fact, forget the rhythm section entirely. No problems with meter, chord changes or coordination with other musicians.
That's exactly what the saxophonist-composer did Saturday night at the Santa Barbara Art Museum in the opening recital of the Jazz '88 concert series. Despite the apparent liberating advantages of working alone, Braxton's program was a relatively risky undertaking. The performance of two 30-40-minute sets of solo saxophone pieces--for the most part improvisations--is a demanding enterprise for even the most gifted performer.
Braxton's solution to the problem was to conduct a kind of minitour through the now somewhat musty pages of '60s avant-garde saxophone techniques. One piece, for example, featured circular breathing. Another featured double-stops and simultaneously hummed vocalizations against overblown saxophone notes. Another slipped through glissando and deep vibrato passages. Yet another juxtaposed squeaks and overtones against honks and squawks.
All of these devices were well explored in the '60s by players like Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Marion Brown and John Tchicai. But Braxton's use of them in his solo saxophone set clearly plays well for those unfamiliar with the Vanguard jazz of two decades ago.