Friday, November 24, 2017

Anthony Braxton - Quintet (Basel) 1977 (HatOLOGY 2000, 2016)

Anthony Braxton led one his most interesting bands on this exciting live recording. He plays sopranino and alto saxophone along with clarinet in the company of an all-star group featuring George Lewis on trombone, Muhal Richard Abrams on piano, Mark Helias on bass and Charles "Bobo" Shaw on drums. Braxton was at the height of his powers during this period, touring the world and recording widely in a variety of configurations. On this album Braxton negotiates four lengthy compositions and improvisations with fellow AACM luminaries Lewis and Abrams while Shaw and Helias take on the role of an imaginative rhythm section, allowing to music to move from blustery post-bop, to squalls of free jazz and abstract wide open improvisation. Braxton is a wonder, switching from alto saxophone, where you can hear how he fits in the legacy of the instrument from Charlie Parker to Eric Dolphy to Braxton, playing accessible jazz and avant-garde music with aplomb. The high pitched sopranino saxophone which is relatively rare in jazz provides a bracing blast of pure sound, which can pierce through the band or float freely over it. His clarinet moves in the same manner, demonstrating his grip on the entirety of the jazz tradition. The band is with Braxton every step of the way, and Lewis is a master improviser, playing sweeping swathes of sound, with brassy bleats and complex solos that allows the music to develop a complex web. The recently passed Muhal Richard Abrams is a wonder on this album, playing thoughtful, architectural piano to support the group and taking a bright and shining tone to his featured sections. Helias and Shaw keep the engine purring, weaving absorbing and complicated rhythmic patterns that take Braxton’s compositions and reflect them back keeping the possibilities of engagement with the music fresh and exciting. These are the contributions of the individual musicians, but it as a cohesive whole that the music is at its most powerful. It’s a band of leaders that gets behind Braxton’s vision of jazz and progressive music, and brings the compositions to life with clarity and develops impressive improvisational sections that are challenging yet accessible. The music is very impressive and complex but enjoyable to listen to and it flows seamlessly developing a variety of different tempos and feelings of consistency and substance. No matter how complicated or out the music seems be these compositions and improvisations remain grounded in the tradition and spirit of jazz.  Quintet (Basel) 1977 -

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