Anthony Braxton: Creative Orchestra (Koln) 1978 (2010)
Braxton doesn't play in this band, but several familiar names appear on the CD's back cover: reed men Marty Ehrlich, Vinny Golia and Ned Rothenberg. Pianist Marilyn Crispell. Trombonists JD Parran, Ray Anderson and George Lewis. Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. It's a testament to Braxton's influence, esteem and ability to recognize and cultivate talent that so many future luminaries were assembled for these shows. Had Bob Ostertag, whose synthesizer defines the opening piece of the first set ("Language Improvisations") ever conceived of producing his bleeps and bloops in such a setting? Braxton's compositions are notoriously difficult and this opener sets a daunting precedent, but as Braxton's notated pieces are brought forth, the big band dynamics generate continuous excitement and the soloists are encouraged to create in the moment. Rothenberg on alto and Anderson on trombone burn and blare as "Composition 45" closes part one.
"Composition 59," which opens the second disc, serves as a transition to what makes this music arguably the most enjoyable of Braxton's career. Ehrlich's sopranino is captivating and as the piece concludes with breathy trumpet sounds and electric synth and guitar noises, it gives way to "Composition 51," clearly in the Duke Ellington tradition with call-and-response sections and hot soloing from Ehrlich and Golia. Finally, it's the closing number, the beloved "Composition 58," here presented in full glorious flower, that blows away all the atonal density. John Philip Sousa marches to New Orleans as Braxton demonstrates that you have to know the rules before you can break them.
Track Listing: CD1: Language Improvisations; Composition 55; Composition 45. CD2: Composition 59; Composition 51; Composition 58.
Personnel: Anthony Braxton: composer, conductor; Dwight Andrews: flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones; Marty Ehrlich: flute, clarinet, sopranino, alto and baritone saxophones; Vinny Golia: piccolo, bass clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophones; J.D. Parran: flute, clarinet, nagaswaram, tenor saxophone; Ned Rothenberg: flute, ocarina, bass clarinet, alto saxophone; Rob Howard: trumpet; Michael Mossman: trumpet; Leo Smith: trumpet; Kenny Wheeler: flugelhorn, trumpet; George Lewis: trombone; James King Roosa: trombone; Ray Anderson: trombone, tuba; Marilyn Crispell: piano; Birgin Taubhorn: accordion; Bobby Naughton: vibraphone; James Emery: electric guitar; John Lindberg: bass; Brian Smith: bass; Thurman Barker: percussion, marimba; Bob Ostertag: Serge synthesizer.
Record Label: Hatology
Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde