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Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997, Vol. 4

Anthony Braxton

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Album Review

In the light of Firehouse 12's successful release of Anthony Braxton's complete Iridium residence as a single nine-CD box set in 2007, it is worth wondering if the Yoshi's residence would have had more impact had it been published as a 12-CD package instead of six separate volumes. The fact is, Braxton's six-day string of concerts at Yoshi's took place in 1997, the first night came out on CD in 2002, the fourth in 2007, and at this time it seems listeners won't have the whole thing before 2010. However, given how fast Braxton's compositional approach has been evolving, this occasional dip into early Ghost Trance Music helps recontextualize the Falling River Musics series or even the Diamond Curtain Wall experiments. On this fourth night of their weeklong engagement, the Ninetet performed two sets, each featuring a single new composition, numbers "213" and "214." Again, these are very difficult to describe in particulars, as this whole series feeds on repetition (within a piece and between pieces) of eight-note motives. Nine members strong, the group often sounds much larger, mainly because all but two play an array of different instruments, starting with Braxton himself, surrounded that night by seven saxes and clarinets, plus a flute. Even percussionist Kevin Norton keeps switching back and forth between the drum kit, marimba, and vibraphone. So the ensemble sounds larger than life, especially in "Composition No. 213," a very busy hour of music. "Composition No. 214" is somewhat stranger, the group fragmenting more often into subgroupings, and establishing a hierarchy between the soloists and the "backup" players by pushing the former far up into the mix and keeping the remaining musicians at a pianissimo level late in the piece. "Composition No. 214" also sees the group more willing to drop the GTM pulse altogether, or even accelerating it. Still, due to the time lag between recording and release dates, the Yoshi's series has become an item for the completist. More casual Braxton fans are better off keeping up with the man's genius and focusing on his more recent adventures. ~ François Couture, Rovi


Born: June 4, 1945 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Genius is a rare commodity in any art form, but at the end of the 20th century it seemed all but non-existent in jazz, a music that had ceased looking ahead and begun swallowing its tail. If it seemed like the music had run out of ideas, it might be because Anthony Braxton covered just about every conceivable area of creativity during the course of his extraordinary career. The multi-reedist/composer might very well be jazz's last bona fide genius. Braxton began with jazz's essential rhythmic and...
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