If you have been impressed by recent excellent but very different Braxton releases like 20 Standards
, Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997 Vol. 3
or Quintet (London) 2004: Live at the Royal Festival Hall
(all on Leo, 2005), there is no way any of them will have prepared you for this latest Braxton release.
The music here was recorded at Sadler's Wells in May 1994 with the 23-piece Creative Jazz Orchestra; despite the orchestra's name, this music is most definitely not jazz. It is avant-garde opera. The voices dominate and the orchestra rarely does more than accompany them. Both compositions have little in the way of conventional story or plot. Nor do they have any memorable melodies, in the style of classical Italian or German operas.
As for the librettos, anyone who has ever read a Braxton interview or sleeve note will know that he has his own way with language; simplicity and transparency are not his key strengths. He brings the same skills to the librettos for these compositions. Here is a (fairly typical) line from Composition No. 175: "We have only come into this space because of the harsh conditions in the forest region (or target spaces 44n to g40b) as a bridge logic construct that provides a safe haven for rerouting directives. Sorry, would you mind repeating that?
"Composition No. 126 Trillium Dialogues M is part of Braxton's ambitious Trillium Opera Series"thirty-six autonomous one-act operas that will hopefully be completed in the next ten to fifteen years." Braxton himself considers this music to be amongst his most important work. Indeed, he believes in it so much that he apparently invested a considerable amount of money in staging a production of "Trillium R - Shala Fears For The Poor." A recording of that is available as a four-CD set on Braxton House, but it's not easy to find (and it costs $100). Consequently, this CD provides the first readily available taste of Trillium, containing the first two of the four acts of Trillium M.
On this evidence, Trillium is dense, wordy and rather repetitive. And as with much of Braxton's music, it makes a kind of sense when considered in the context of his other work. Each playing of this album reveals new things to enjoy and savour. I still do not have a clue about the plotsomething about educating one's children, I think; but it seems not to matter in which order the acts are heardbut that is of secondary importance compared to the charming eccentricity of the lyrics. Another example: "Our children must be told the truth about the nature of change cycles and world contributionsand we cannot fail in this objective. The concept of value systems must be viewed with respect to what this subject poses to world political dynamics."
I strongly suspect that one would need to see these operas performed on stage to fully appreciate the music. Nonetheless, as recorded music it does have a certain fascination. But jazz it isn't.
Track Listing: Composition No. 175 for two vocalists, creative orchestra and constructed environment;
Composition No. 126 (four acts): Act 1; Act 2: Trillium-Dialogues M. Joreo
Personnel: Mark White & Richard Iles: trumpet; Chris Bridges: trombone; Robin Hayward: tuba; Iain
Dixon, Jim Hunt & Andy Schofield: reeds; Susanna Gibbon & Steve Wilkie: violin; Sara Swain:
viola; Andrew Wardle: cello; Jackie Perkins, Lesley Davies, Paul Phoenix & Paul McNamara:
voice; Phillippa Tunnell: harp; Mike Walker: guitar; Roy Powell: keyboards; Nikki Iles: piano;
Gary Culshaw: bass; Eryl Roberts: drums; Liz Gulliver: tuned percussion; Anthony Braxton:
conductor; Nick Purnell: artistic director.
Year Released: 2006
| Record Label: Leo Records
| Style: Beyond Jazz