Anthony Braxton: Sax Quintet (New York) 1998 (2013)
Joining Braxton on a veritable saxophone showroom of instruments are four regular collaborators from this period in Chris Jonas, Seth Misterka, James Fei and Jackson Moore. Though not one of Braxton's Ghost Trance Music pieces, distinct similarities occur, in the close knit unisons, periodic departures from the line, and the relative independence allowed to the protagonists within the overall framework. Perhaps the main difference is the lack of the insistent streams of eighth notes which characterize the pieces on, say, Tentet (Wesleyan) 1999 (New Braxton House, 2012). While impossible to distinguish individual contributions, except for the leader's distinctive roller coaster dash, it goes without saying that the instrumental prowess of the participants is stellar and their familiarity with Braxton's methods leads to a thoroughly convincing performance which breathes unruly life into what might otherwise seem academic systems.
At times the complex non-repeating line, which nonetheless features recurring motifs, resembles a never-ending theme expounded in loose colloquy by five Charlie Parkers! As typical of Braxton's workings, anyone is at liberty to interpolate additional compositions from the composer's portfolio at suitable junctures in the proceedings, and echoes of recognizable themes come and go at various points. Some of the most notable are the strains of "Composition 40I"- a madcap circus march first recorded on Performance 9/1/79 (Hat Hut, 1980)- that emerges at 23.30' introduced by a pair of piping sopranos, and is then picked up and embellished with raucous honks by the other horns. Elsewhere a wonderful episode impresses at 17.00' where the horns evoke into a pack of dogs baying at the moon, while later at 36.00' an entertaining contrast of extremes ensues between a saxophone whistling in the bat squeak register and stentorian bellows from one of the larger members of the reed family.
Of course, stamina is needed to get through the unbroken 52-minute performance in one sitting, but for anyone remotely interested in Braxton's work or the art of advanced saxophone, it's a commitment well worth making.
Track Listing: Composition 173
Personnel: Anthony Braxton: sopranino, F, and alto saxophones; James Fei: soprano and alto saxophones; Chris Jonas: soprano and alto saxophones; Seth Misterka: alto saxophone; Jackson Moore: alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones.
Record Label: New Braxton House
Style: Modern Jazz