All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

296

Anthony Braxton at Yoshi's

Robert Spencer By

Sign in to view read count
Anthony Braxton's Ghost Trance Festival took Yoshi's the last week of August and introduced West Coast fans to what the master called "the next level of my work." As always, Mr. Braxton's pace and breadth of vision is breathtaking. In the Seventies and Eighties he moved beyond playing simple song forms, stringing composed sections together with improvisations in concerts that began on one planet and ended up forty-odd minutes later a few galaxies over. Then he began writing "pulse tracks" that could be combined with other compositions in any number of ways, and his music took on an added depth from the possibility that every one of the players could introduce composed material anytime, anywhere, in any combination with improvised sections. Reed and piano could improvise over a composition being played by bass and drums, or vice versa-or two or more composed pieces could be juxtaposed. This demanding music posed exciting challenges for musicians and listeners alike, and opened up a world of possibilities that can be fruitfully explored for who knows how long—that is, if they aren't considered to have been exhausted by Braxton's monumental Quartet, consisting of Marilyn Crispell (piano), Mark Dresser (bass) and Gerry Hemingway (drums).

Certainly Braxton doesn't think they're exhausted; on the contrary, he characterized the music of the Ghost Trance nonet that he brought into Yoshi's as "much larger than the quartet musics," although the quartets "made this possible." The Ghost Trance music, he told me, is simply "beyond quartet music—more galactic." He said that the Ghost Trance musicians had "400-plus music systems to choose from," as they utilized the premieres of Braxton's Compositions 207 through 218 as basic frameworks.

The term "Ghost Trance" refers to, as one might expect, more than one thing. Tributes to the old masters are one goal, making this phase of Braxton's work not only a development of his quartet music, but of his series of nods to influences including Thelonious Monk, Wayne Marsh, and Charlie Parker. At the same time, the "multiple logics" of the Ghost Trance concept involve the development of composed and improvised themes over figures that repeat with relatively minor variation, after the manner of ritual and spiritual music worldwide.

The result was music so rich and complex as to be virtually impossible to capture in the space of a few words. The new Compositions presented a variety of canvases upon which to work: 209 was intense, spiky, relentless; 215 more contemplative...but as each one comprised a set by itself, and each of the nine musicians was brimming full of ideas, the multiplicity of textures and moods must await release of the 12-CD box for categorization. The number of wind instruments onstage would have staffed a good-sized, if somewhat eccentric, marching band, as each of the five reedmen (plus a guitarist) Braxton brought with him have clearly been attending his multi-instrumentalism seminars at Wesleyan. The Ghost Trance Festival at Yoshi's was comprised of Braxton, Andre Vida, Jackson Moore, Brandon Evans, J. D. Parran, Kevin O'Niel, and John Faye, with the impeccable Joe Fonda on bass and the ever-ready Kevin Norton on percussion, including some striking post-post-Hutcherson work on vibes. Fonda's bow work was especially fine, adding extra passion and precision to the proceedings. The reeds were fine, with the bass clarinets (attended by several hands) a bit Dolphy-an, the altos a bit Braxtonian, although the man himself outshone them all. During 209 a couple of the young ones were holding their clarinets center stage while Brax wailed on his over on stage right: all they could do was look at one another ruefully and shake their heads, for although the Professor was gracious and generous as usual in sharing the space and inviting his men to spread out, when he played he was galactic enough all by himself.

The band also seemed to need a bit more rehearsal time navigating Braxton's scores, for many times throughout their stay at Yoshi's they gave and accepted help from their mates in keeping up—or maybe they were just pointing out another of the 400+ music systems to jump into together? The music was, due to the density of the band and the sheer comprehensiveness of Braxton's vision, a bit in the Ascension mold: so many things happening at once. In and among them, a great deal to hold onto and savor. Get in line for the box set.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Multiple Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Sextet (Parker) 1993

Sextet (Parker) 1993

New Braxton House
2018

buy
3 Compositions (EEMHM) 2011

3 Compositions...

Firehouse 12 Records
2016

buy
Trio and Duet

Trio and Duet

Sackville
2015

buy

Related Articles

Read The Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra at Greer Cabaret Theater Live Reviews
The Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra at Greer Cabaret Theater
by Mackenzie Horne
Published: November 15, 2018
Read Enjoy Jazz 2018 Live Reviews
Enjoy Jazz 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: November 14, 2018
Read Jazz for all Ages Live Reviews
Jazz for all Ages
by Martin McFie
Published: November 14, 2018
Read Baku Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Baku Jazz Festival 2018
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 13, 2018
Read Joanna Pascale at Chris' Jazz Cafe Live Reviews
Joanna Pascale at Chris' Jazz Cafe
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 13, 2018
Read Moldejazz 2018 Live Reviews
Moldejazz 2018
by Martin Longley
Published: November 10, 2018
Read "Athens Aqua Jazz Festival 2018" Live Reviews Athens Aqua Jazz Festival 2018
by Francesco Martinelli
Published: July 14, 2018
Read "James Mahone at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews James Mahone at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: November 26, 2017
Read "12 Points 2018" Live Reviews 12 Points 2018
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 14, 2018