Anthony Braxton

Four Compositions (Solo, Duo & Trio) 1982/1988

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This is a collection of four of Braxton's more classically oriented pieces from the 1980s, and is a fine introduction to this aspect of his work, especially for the listener who knows only his "jazz" persona. Pianist Marianne Schroeder is featured on three of the compositions and is a prime reason for this recording's success. Her solo performance on the entirely notated "Composition 139" is suffused with a rich and brooding quality, while retaining an extraordinary clarity and precision. Though no one could mistake the writing on this work as jazz, it is by no means academic, instead straddling the divide between, say, Boulez and Rzewski. "Composition 101," a duet between Schroeder and Braxton (on soprano and sopranino saxophones), is likewise impassioned and even romantic in nature despite investigating knotty and gnarly relationships between the two instruments. Braxton provides a wondrous and soaring solo on his "Composition 99B" (which also incorporates sections of other pieces of his), where the territory explored is more akin to his earlier solo recordings and which has the jazziest nature of any of the selections on this album. It's a performance that ranks with Braxton's finest solo works.

The final piece is a 30-minute composition for a trio, consisting of Braxton, Schroeder, and trombonist Garrett List, erstwhile member of the pioneering electro-acoustic improvisatory group Musica Elettronica Viva. In five parts, it uses notated portions as structures for improvising, though deducing where one stops and the other starts is quite difficult. The fee of the piece is more deliberate and introspective than the previous works and might be less immediately appealing, though careful listening offers subtle rewards, especially with regard to the sensitive interplay between musicians. Overall, this is one of the better recorded examples of the non-jazz area of Braxton's sound-world and is highly recommended to adventurous listeners.

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