Anthony Braxton

October Meeting 1991: 3 Quartets

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The three quartets featured on the annual recording of the Total Music Meeting are a wide and varied lot covering old and new ground. The first featuring Anthony Braxton, Misha Mengelberg, Han Bennink, and Mark Dresser take on the jazz cannon with "Well You Needn't," "Body and Soul," "Four," and "Bye Bye Blackbird." Bennink does his best to throw off his collaborators and gets first Mengelberg and then Braxton to wreak havoc on the changes with harmonic manipulations and striated chromatic modes. The second quartet of pianist Col Fuhler, cellist Tristan Honsinger, bassist Maarten Altena, and drummer Wim Janssen takes almost 12 minutes to study the underside of silence. Why this pretentious piece of nothingness is on here proves that just because an ensemble is Dutch it is revered no matter what they do, or in this case, do not. Finally, Bennink makes a return appearance with Steve Beresford, Arjen Gorter, and the mighty Evan Parker to finish out the program. In one 17-minute improvisation, this band manages to call into question every single notion about what jazz, new music, free improvisation, lyricism, modulation, and interval are, and perhaps even deconstruct the very notion of what a quartet is used for. Beresford is particularly brilliant, especially in his dueling percussion rambling with Bennink. Parker clearly doesn't want to direct here, but to be a member of the ensemble and plays like one. It's true his playing is full of pathos and fire, but it is also under spoken as he draws out Gorter to engage with him in some semantics of deconstruction about their roles -- at one point Parker begins riffing a kinds of rhythmic idea hypnotically until Bennink has had enough and destroys it handily while Beresford trots out a carnival melody for the band's refusal. This is interplay, argument, hostile reaction, and resolution all at the same time and is the most rewarding listening experience on the entire recording.

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