|CD LR 367/368 - LEO RECORDS|
Two Compositions ( Trio ) 1998
Release date: 2003/02
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A double CD which continues to explore Ghost Trance Music series devised by Anthony Braxton. Composition N. 227 is performed by Chris Jonas (soprano, alto, tenor saxophones), David Novak (bassoon, contrabassoon, etc), Anthony Braxton (alto, F-alto saxophones, clarinet, flute). Composition N. 228 is performed by Jackson Moore (clarinet, alto & baritone saxophones), Seth Misterka (alto, baritone saxophones), Anthony Braxton (bass, contrabass saxophones, contrabass clarinet). As Steve Day writes in his liner notes, Anthony Braxton "has gathered a new, younger generation of saxophone players around him. Together this "new collective" has been responsible for another set of post-Wesleyan classic recordings..."
And so to Anthony Braxton, the one I call The Professor. I use this phrase not because of his role at Wesleyan University or any academic interest on my part. No, for me it is about the critical place which he now inhabits within this huge body of music. Before he went to the university faculty in the early-1990's, he had already designed a blown music capable of controversy and substance. Classic recordings like "For Alto" (Delmark), "Town Hall 1972" (Art Union), "Koln (Creative Orchestra) 1978" (Hat-Art) and "Six Compositions: Quartet" (Antilles) are (almost) random selections from his output between 1968 and 1981. However, in a way, he was already alone. I have come to this conclusion because what Anthony Braxton has sought to define through Adolphe Sax's invention, via solos, duos, trios, small and large creative ensembles, orchestra's larger than anyone's ears, the thirty-six Trillium opera's, is a vocabulary so vast in its intention and invention that its documentation is totally outside the oeuvre of any other saxophone player. A big statement, and of course there are people who will want to argue about it. Even other saxophone players have felt the need to grumble in the dark. Phil Woods and Lee Konitz are two memorable examples, there have been others. Let them argue. They too have made their contributions. I am not writing an argument, time is too short and the page too precious.
The great irony about Anthony Braxton The Professor is that although he has usually found himself walking down his own private highway continuum without too many of his peers to keep him company, he has gathered a new, younger generation of saxophone players around him. Together this "new collective" has been responsible for another set of post-Wesleyan classic recordings, initially through The Professor's own Braxton House label, but increasingly via Leo. The release of "Two Compositions (Trio) 1998" stands alongside "Composition 169 + (186+206+214)" (Leo LR 320/321), "Composition 247" (Leo LR 306), and "Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997 Vol. 1" (Leo LR 343/344); all are as essential to the Braxtonian canon as any of his previous works and are related to the Ghost Trance Music (GTM) series devised by Anthony Braxton. (Want a definition? Here is my attempt: GTM is a description of Mr Braxton's long developed interest in presenting in parallel both multiple composition and improvising structures within a single performance as part of a continuous process.) Jackson Moore (Composition 228) and Chris Jonas (Composition 227) have been gigging and recording GTM with The Professor since 1996. Mr Moore's early saxophone studies were with the great alto player Jackie McLean, but it is Jackson Moore's involvement in Anthony Braxton's activities in Middletown, Connecticut which have shaped his direction. Mr Moore's own Laboratory Band (find them on Peacock Records) used Michael Roller's "Ghostcity" artwork on their debut recording. Explicit connections. As for Chris Jonas, he has been ripening the reeds in William Parker's Little Huey Creative Orchestra whilst producing two fine CD's under his own name for Hopscotch Records ("The Sun Spits Cherries" and "The Vermilion"). Other key figures within the Braxton sax players pool are James Fei, Brandon Evans, J.D. Parran, and Andre Vida, all of whom have been active in the Ghost Trance Ensembles. Seth Misterka's (Composition 228) profile has not been quite so high, though he played alto horn at the Anthony Braxton Library of Congress gig in Washington in 1998, subsequently released on the Braxton House label. Arguably the real odd one out on this CD is David Novak (Composition 227), and not merely because he blows bassoon rather than sax. Mr Novak was born in London but lives in Harlem. He has played with people as far apart as Merzbow and Otomo Yoshihide through to Maestros, a weird lo-fi electronics duo with James Fei, a crucial horn player within the Braxton collective.
I am still listening to the crux in the curve of "227" and "228"; I bathe in the repetition pass the point where it stops, only to find Anthony Braxton's alto shuddering forward at the edges of my expectation. The brief flute passage twenty minutes into "227" feels like a sound sojourn. Big music seeking a small corner to take breath. On "228" the baritones and the bass horns dance at both extremes of pitch possibilities. There is an eloquence in the intelligence, yet "trance" always gives the game away. To my ears these two performances are really about extending the visual experience of the visionary into an aural equivalent. The Professor was fifty-three when these rites of riddle and continuous composition were played. He still has much to do. The essence is very simple, cease to breathe, we die. For the saxophone player, cease to blow and the music will stop. The importance of Mr Moore, Mr Jonas, Mr Novak and Mr Misterka is understood and absolute; they should continue to blow. Here their presence is not passive. By taking part in the Ghost Trance Music they have committed themselves to the necessity of the continuum. Saxophones, when they are blown from the breath of..........
-- STEVE DAY (January 2003)
"The trance will come only later." Albert Camus
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