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Having both studied under Anthony Braxton at Wesleyan University and now playing in his ensembles, Taylor Ho Bynum and Mary Halvorson have established themselves in town working together in various other groupings. Halvorson plays in Bynum's sextet and they play together in the Thirteenth Assembly quartet. They are also two-thirds of Braxton's Diamond Curtain Wall trio, as heard on last year's excellent release on Victo.
That trio was augmented with Katherine Young for a concert in Moscow in June of 2008just over a month after the Victo recording. And where the Victo set introduced a new field of work for Braxton, incorporating Supercollider electronics, here they return to more familiar ground, with Halvorson's tasteful use of effects being the only electronics heard here. The group plays the leader's "Composition 367B" and gives it a fantastic reading. Given the instrumentationBraxton on contrabass clarinet and sopranino, soprano and alto saxophones; Bynum on cornet, flugelhorn, valve trombone and bass and piccolo trumpets; Halvorson on electric guitar; Young on bassoonand given the intricacies of Braxton's work, it's fantastic how organic the playing sounds. While the sophisticated interplay indicative of his work is, of course, present here, the group is grounded in a familiarity that makes this one of the most accessible Braxton releases in recent memory.
Bynum and Halvorson also collaborated in an interesting configuration for the 2006 Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT). The set paired Bynum's trio (with Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, also of Bynum's sextet and the Thirteenth Assembly) against fellow trumpeter Stephen Haynes' trio (guitarist Allan Jaffe and drummer Warren Smith). The "double band," a collision of two groups with like instrumentation, is always an interesting challenge and theirs is a thoughtful take on the concept. Along with original compositions by each of the co-leaders, they play arrangements of Ornette Coleman's "YX 6C" and Dizzy Gillespie's "Kush" that show this was more than a tossed-together meeting. While double bands can end up stepping all over each other, the players here are cognizant of not taking up more than their share of the soundspace. It's a shame then that the group didn't make it into the studio. The recording quality is not great and the caselaudably using recycled chipboard but roughly assembledis less than the music deserves.
Tracks and Personnel
Quartet Moscow (2008)
Tracks: Composition 367B; Encore.
Personnel: Anthony Braxton: sopranino, soprano and alto saxophones, contrabass clarinet; Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn, piccolo and bass trumpets; Mary Halvorson: electric guitar; Katherine Young: bassoon.
The Double Trio
Tracks: HeBeSheBeWeBe Set 1; YX6C; Broken Shadows; HeBeSheBeWeBe Set 1; Triple Duo; mm(pf); Miscellaneous; Kush; Notes from an Autumn Diary.
Personnel: Taylor Ho Bynum: trumpet, cornet; Stephen Haynes: trumpet; Allen Jaffe: guitar; Mary Halverson: guitar; Warren Smith: drums; Tomas Fujiwara: drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.