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18 April 2010

Anthony Braxton - 'Five Compositions (Quartet) 1986' (Black Saint)

I wonder if Braxton went to his label in 1986 and said "hey guys, guess what, i got a new album for ya!" and the Black Saint brass were like "o sweet what is it called?" and he was all like "Five Compositions (Quartet) 1986" and they were like "wait, didden we just do that?" But this is the next logical step, right? Keep Gerry Hemingway but replace Marilyn Crispell with David Rosenboom and put Mark Dresser on bass. What changes? Everything. Rosenboom is a chop-chop pianist and introduced a much more rhythmic (if not hyperactive) melodic structure, which Hemingway works well with on the toms. The compositions are swirling and dense, and retain the darkly inflected quality of the last LP, only with a somewhat more jazz cloud around it all. They're back in Milano for this (which makes me ask - why the fuck do we English speakers shorten Milano to Milan? I understand difficult foreign names like Köln we might want to make Cologne, or Götebørg as Gothenberg, but, seriously, what English speaker is not capable of saying Milan-O? or Roma?) and the recording quality is a bit murkier, yet strangely dry at the same time. The first four pieces blaze through with few moments of relief - there are the occasional moments of bass/alto sax interplay that really stick out, but generally it's an onslaught. The final track, 'Composition - No. 101 (+31+86+30)' (which has a pictograph that sorta looks like a roll of toilet paper) beings with a very small, quiet section. The drones that are built up are extended breath pieces, with bowed bass and percussion to push them along, and it's not unlike some of the outer-breath experimentations that Evan Parker did with the Electro-acoustic Ensemble a decade later. When the band does come in, they never show their hand, and it's a bit more of the eerie dance I've gotten accustomed to after listening to 10 Anthony Braxton records in a row. But now, sadly, it's time to move on for an even more daunting gauntlet....

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