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11 April 2010

Anthony Braxton - 'Creative Orchestra Music 1976'

Jumping off from the concise, quartet-based stuff on Five Pieces 1975, we get this large enesemble masterpiece - in some ways the culmination of everything Braxton 'represents'. He keeps his orchestra on a short leash for the most part, but at some points, particularly cut three on side 2, we hear some of the most fully realised potential of big-band improvisation/composition meetings. But let's start at the beginning - side 1, track 1 is a go-getter, a sprightly or attention-grabber that shows off the potential of what happens when you get 15 talented people together. The tune is concise and everyone is held somewhat in check by each other; solos come out but they're balanced in a brass vs. reeds structure and it's a pretty dazzling opening. And well-recorded too! But then, cut two is 8 minutes of quiet experimentation - with an even larger lineup of twenty. There's MEV guys, AACM guys, and some lesser known names but they all take their time feeling out how they can interact spatially. There's some bass drum rubbing, tuba bleats, and other motifs that people associate with 'smart' free jazz, but it's restrained enough that I would maybe even finger this as a track to pick out as a potential eye-opener for the doubters. Cut three is an experimentation with marching band music and is such really fun and, well, fucking racous. Leo Smith is conductor, and I can imagine him wearing some strange red uniform. The liner notes make a reference to Tutti music but all I know is that is fucking rips. When you flip the record, though, you get a very moody, ECM like exploration that steps through several tonal progressions (while still leaving room for piano tinkles and marimba gurgles). There are improvisational sections but they are like the floss between these heavy, post-classical teeth. I like it, but I've always had a thing for mildewy cobweb jazz composition. Braxton musta really carefully sequences Creative Orchestra Music 1976 to balance the peaks and valleys; these slower bits really work well against the full-fledged rock-out-with-your-cock-out moments. Of which the final cut is definitely that, as mentioned above. Creative? Yes. Orchestra? Well, 20 is an orchestra to me though there's a distinct lack of strings. But not a lack of swing; and even the slower, spatial bits maintain some sort of reflection on 'blues' or whatever it is that is the voice of African-American jazz espression.

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