Anthony Braxton 

Four Compositions (GTM) 2000; Trio and Duet

When multi-instrumentalist and composer Anthony Braxton began his recording career in the late '60s with the Chicago-based indie, Delmark, he was seen as another of the challenging young voices of the AACM, the organization that included such luminaries as Richard Abrams and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. But Braxton's affinity for 20th-century classical methods changed people's perceptions of him, and he became an enormous influence on avant-gardists looking for ways to organize the sonic possibilities that free jazz had unleashed at the cost of being ostracized by some jazz "purists."

After 35 years and probably as many labels, Braxton has returned to Delmark for his most recent project, on which he continues to present what he calls "Ghost Trance Music" this time using a standard jazz quartet format to create music that is as unclassifiable as it is rewarding. There is an emphasis on rhythmic repetition, though close listening shows that the performance is deliberately approximate. Most impressive is the way that the musicians move from loosely composed sections to improvising and back, always magically on the same wavelength. Definitely not easy listening, this recording grows on you every time you put it on.

The new release coincides with a reissue by the Canadian label, Sackville, that dates from 1974, when Braxton's star was on its rapid rise. About half of the recording consists of a trio with trumpeter Leo Smith and Moog synthesizer specialist Richard Teitelbaum. The two hornmen seem to have ESP, and Teitelbaum blends his electronica seamlessly on a tour de force that ranges from meditative to downright buoyant. On the remaining tracks, bassist Dave Holland joins Braxton for three standards. Those who question Braxton's jazz roots would do well to note that while his phrasing and harmonic thinking here are always pushing the limits, his sound on his main axe, alto, is far closer to Benny Carter than anything even as modern as Charlie Parker.


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