Anthony Braxton

Sextet (Istanbul) 1996

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Of the Braxton House recordings, the Sextet (Istanbul, 1996) issue is the best of the instrumental recordings released by the label. Recorded at the Akbank Jazz Festival in October of 1995, the sextet Braxton employs to perform the first compositions in his Ghost Trance Musics series is made of veteran improvisers rather than students: Braxton plays all of his usual instruments, while Roland Dahinden plays tenor and alto trombones, Jason Hwang appears on violin, Ted Reichman on accordion, Joe Fonda on bass, and Kevin Norton holds down an entire percussion section, including marimbas, glockenspiels, a drum kit, vibraphone, and other assorted instruments. The Ghost Trance Musics make up roughly Compositions 185-195 in Braxton's oeuvre thus far. Here "Composition 185" and "Composition 186" are performed in their entirety without any of the side-walling or mainstays from the middles of other compositions skating their way into the mix. Essentially, both compositions are engaged thoroughly with theme and variation. Ostinato is the heartbeat, the pulse of each of the works. The improvisational sections take place in the middle of these scalar thematics, which are designed in multiples of three-instruments, measures, bars, melodies, etc. Braxton seems to be going after something he can't quite nail down here, and the band knows it. This is when he's at his best, when in pursuit of an ethereal something that gives him glimpses of an ideal but then slips away like mercury under the thumb. Here tonal studies match contrapuntal ones; timbral intrigues are given host to melodic threads and augmented harmonic passageways into the maze. Make no mistake, this ensemble isn't nearly as capable of careening through Braxton's music as the classic quartet was, but they don't have to be because this music is far more structured and doesn't lend itself as much to individual improvisational voice or to fiery pyrotechnics. Instead the sextet is a unit that relies of nuance and the trace elements in the composition that lend themselves to acts of surprise and spontaneity.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 38:31
2 19:09

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 40:17
blue highlight denotes track pick