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Anthony Braxton is an enigma. His music has always been challenging and he has never compromised. Consequently, some of his compositions have been too far serrated or too densely layered. Nevertheless, in the overall scheme of his musicianship he has elevated his concepts to a dazzling level. He nails the latter sensibility here, and it is all to the good that he has players who rise to the challenge brilliantly. What makes it all the more striking is that they saw only one composition in advance of the recording.
The first tune is quirky. A march beat has Braxton sailing into the atmosphere on the airy fulminations of the flute. The rhythm shifts and he blows convoluted whorls on the sax before it shifts into a march again. The spectre of his vision brings in minimalism, an intuitive conversation within the quartet, a flurry of notes and, glory be, a very discernible and becoming melody. Each shift is smooth and articulate, but there is no guessing which way they will go. Surprise is a becoming element!
The last tune is a slow burner. Braxton’s squiggles and plops and then wafts on elongated lines. Fragmentation and circumspection explode, the soundscape is in constant shift, describing trajectory and dip, and motion is the child of intuition and invention. Braxton and his band come up with a soul stirring and mind jiggling experience.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.