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There is little in the extensive catalog of Anthony Braxton that falls into a customary compositional milieu. His more recently formed conceptual structure, Echo Echo Mirror House (circa 2011), succeeds Ghost Trance Music and Diamond Curtain Wall Music as a platform for his unique system of coded composing and improvising. On 3 Compositions (EEMHM) 2011, each member of the septet has dual functions as they are armed with iPods, in addition to their more familiar instruments. What reads as being somewhat gimmicky on paper, works quite effectively in performance.
The three compositions, on individual discs in the box set, each run just under one hour. Disc 1 is "Composition No. 372"; a dense layer of instrumentation giving way to a sing-song brass and reeds section. The electronics play a part that moves from the background to the fore interweaving with the traditional instruments. Disc 2's "Composition No. 373" opens darkly, descending into chaos and coming out on the other side with something approaching delicacy. Spoken voice overlays enter and a pianopresumably via iPodadds a percussive influence that sets off the almost impenetrable layers of background effects. The final work is "Composition No. 377" and it has more passages that feel structured but they exist within a larger, more erratically organized universe. As iPod-generated audience applause drifts in and out of the frame, it begins to take on musical properties that work with and against other elements of the music.
3 Compositions (EEMHM) 2011 was recorded in 2011 at the state-of-the-art Firehouse 12 studios in New Haven, CT. The quality of the sound, given its intricacy, is astounding. Neither Braxton's music, nor his complex explanations of same, are easily digestible. His scores are as intriguingly searching as they are difficult and detached. Like so much of his work, this album may be beyond what many of us can comprehend, even if we enjoy the listening experience.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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