Anthony Braxton: Nine Compositions (Hill) 2000
Braxton, while the leader in print, is very much an egalitarian ensemble member and while he solos on virtually all of the tracks, his partners remain commensurately prominent in the pecking order. Seeming to lavishly enjoy the structured heads-solos surroundings his statements are full of carefully considered logic balanced with carefree loquaciousness. Lehman’s alto makes for an intriguing contrast, frequently playing faster and with more densely packed clusters of notes than those phrases chosen by his mentor. O’Neil’s piquant strums serve as chordal center and as on the previous volume, the restraint evident in his fretwork juxtaposes curiously with some of his previous work as a leader (see Sous Rature on Barking Hoop). Smoker’s timbral command is a significant asset in the textural rich environment of Hill’s musical milieu, as his beautifully controlled mute work displays on delicate reading of “Dedication.” The layered momentum of the hard bop classic “Euterpe” shows another side of the group with the horns and O’Neil digging forcefully into the theme with vigor to spare, completely upending the source material through a string of surprise outbursts. A slight flaw in the group dynamics rears up in the inaudibility of Eulau, who is at times lost in the denser ensemble sections where guitarist and drummer sound off boisterously. His recompense arrives with a clean-shaven solo on “Calliope.”
Overall this date is even more centered and successful than its companion (though both compliment each other and should obviously be considered for a tandem listening experience). The decision to focus solely on a single composer helps solidify both thematic continuity and group consensus. The result is a venerating tribute achieved. Those who have long since relegated Braxton to, at best, the experimental fringes of jazz will hopefully find their ears opened and their respect replenished by strength and conviction inherent in this music.
CIMP on the web: http://www.cadencebuilding.com
Track Listing: New Monastery/ Pinnacle/ Dedication/ Euterpe/ Tail Feather/ Calliope/ Pax/ Symmetry/ Refuge.
Personnel: Anthony Braxton- alto & soprano saxophones; Steve Lehman- alto saxophone; Paul Smoker- trumpet; Kevin O
Record Label: CIMP Records
Style: Modern Jazz