Anthony Braxton Ninetet

Ninetet (Yoshi's) 1997, Vol. 1

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Recorded live at the San Francisco jazz club Yoshi's, this two-CD set captures Anthony Braxton's "Ghost Trance" music performed by a sympathetic nonet, comprised of a saxophone sextet plus a rhythm section. Each of the group's members is closely associated with Braxton, so that this performance can be said to accurately portray the structure of the music and the intentions of the composer. The sound is surprisingly clear for a live performance, too. This is very difficult music to listen to at one sitting, and the written saxophone parts can be particularly torturous. Pounding pulses devoid of melody, a somewhat limited tonal palette, and lots of repeating phrases (what the composer calls "repetition") add to the complexity and the opaqueness. Appreciating the theoretical underpinnings of the compositions, some of which are discussed by Steve Day in the liner notes, make it more approachable, and the glorious improvisations by Braxton and his colleagues mitigate the harshness of the whole. Although it is virtually impossible to know which reed players are playing what and when, when you bring together the sort of talent represented by saxophone luminaries such as Brandon Evans, James Fei, Jackson Moore, as well as an all-star rhythm section of percussionist Kevin Norton, guitarist Kevin O'Neil, and bassist Joe Fonda, you know that the quality of performance is bound to be superb, and, in fact, the solos and trio breakouts are nothing less than splendid. For those who have been exposed to this phase of Braxton's music, these two performances are among his best for a small group. For those who have not yet tasted these fruits, you may wish to start elsewhere with a single helping.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 01:12:00

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 01:11:09
blue highlight denotes track pick