Two of the compositions on this recording were written around 1980, two in 1992, but all are representative of the more "classical" side of Braxton's work. Unlike several previously recorded examples of this facet of his oeuvre, however, an ensemble made up largely of jazz musicians is utilized and, partially as a result, this is one of his most successful orchestral albums. The instrumental palette also contributes to the luscious and rich sound with a group consisting of winds, accordions, an organ, and a percussion section of vibes, marimbas, and steel drums.
"Composition 96," for example, had been recorded by a student orchestra in 1981 (Composition 96, Leo Records) where it retained a slightly academic tinge. Here, in a shortened version, it opens up and breathes with the fine organ work of Amina Claudine Myers featured prominently. Elsewhere, the twin accordions of Guy Klucevsek and Ted Reichman are in the fore, providing colors not usually associated with Braxton. In the reed section, he shows a predilection for clarinets that also serves to amplify the creamy, liquid sound world achieved here. Additionally, it seems clear that Braxton allowed room for improvisation (though it's difficult to ascertain exactly when this is the case), which, of course, adds life and passion to the proceedings. It should be noted that Braxton conducts the ensemble but does not perform on this album.
Listeners who might be cautious about the more arcane aspects of his work will find a relatively accessible introduction to Braxton's "classical" leanings herein as will others interested in the state of contemporary, creative orchestral writing. A rewarding, challenging effort.