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One might wonder why this release took so along to resurface from the tape archives, yet this 1977 live recording of the “Anthony Braxton Quintet” - (Basel) 1977 looms as a significant entry into the modern jazz legacy and one that reemphasizes the leader’s often brilliant compositional approach. Here, Braxton supplements his woodwind attack with the equally influential pianist/composer Muhal Richard Abrams, bassist Mark Helias, trombonist George Lewis and drummer Charles “Bobo” Shaw. And while Braxton has performed with several pianists over the years, the instrument has never been a staple within the his various aggregations with the exception being Marilyn Crispell and/or sporadic guest spots and collaborations by others of note.
Basically, this presentation sounds as cutting edge as it may have appeared over twenty-four years ago! With “Composition 69 J”, the quintet investigates circular movements amid recurring themes and staggered choruses as the telepathic group interaction provides the listener with an exhibition that resides upon lofty heights, almost as if these musicians were under the watchful eye of the modern jazz gods.. On this piece, the band maintains a staggering pulse, marked by Braxton’s burning lines performed on sopranino sax, counterbalanced by Abrams’ swirling clusters and probing statements, although at times, the musicians’ regenerate the primary theme in somewhat of a subliminal manner. Hence, Braxton’s noticeably complex thought processes implicate various formulations and suggestions within the context of the group improvisations, soloing and incredibly difficult to perform unison lines atop odd-metered time signatures.
The quintet gravitates towards a fiery swing motif on “Composition 69 N/G”, featuring crisply stated and simmering unison lines of a bop-ish nature. Once again, the ensemble instills a cosmic process, as blistering soloing coalesces with a predominately urgent pace, while Lewis and Braxton engage in a bit of cat and mouse towards the coda. However, Lewis’ wah-wah trombone diatribe on “Composition 69 M” sets a pattern for the musicians’ four-way dialogue, supplemented by Braxton’s darting notes and often linear thematic inventions on clarinet, augmented by the soloist’s endearing melodies, weaving textures, and the rhythm section’s propulsive momentum. Overall, these amazingly fresh and novel performances serve as a testament to a musician who, over the last three decades, has almost single-handedly altered the course of modern jazz and composition. Highly recommended! hatOLOGY
Track Listing: Composition 69 J, Composition 69 N/G, Composition 69 M, Composition 40 B
Personnel: Anthony Braxton; alto saxophone, sopranino saxophone & clarinet: George Lewis; trombone: Muhal Richard Abrams; piano: Mark Helias; double bass: Charles "Bobo
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.