Six Compositions (GTM) 2001

Anthony Braxton

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Six Compositions (GTM) 2001 Review

by Brian Olewnick

Recorded about six years after his first ventures into ghost trance music, this sprawling, four-disc set shows significant advances in Braxton's conception of this territory, although it, in general, lacks some of the ecstatic quality of the earlier releases on Braxton House. While the general notion of a consistent pulse that defines ghostly trance music is present, the tempi are for the most part rather slow and march-like. This imparts something of a plodding quality to several of the works, acting against the nervous and pleasurable giddiness one derived from the prior albums. The pieces are arranged for a variety of ensembles, the number of members gradually decreasing from ten to two over the course of the set. In the 90-plus minute "Composition 286," the tentet allows Braxton to use the collage strategy he developed in the '80s with his classic quartet, that of interpolating earlier compositions into a performance. There's a lovely moment late in the piece where "Composition 23A," the gorgeous final track from his New York, Fall 1974 release, emerges from the dense ensemble work that's worth the price of the album. There is a certain looseness (or expansiveness) to the work that, oddly enough, ends up sounding very similar to some Sun Ra sides from the '60s. The remaining five compositions are scored for groups ranging from quintet to duo and what they lose in richness (not much, actually), they make up for in clarity of form. Here the individual contributions come to the fore and there's particularly exciting work from percussionist Gino Robair and guitarist John Shiurba. The latter, along with trumpeter Greg Kelley on the first track, provides fresh doses of non-idiomatic, free improvisation on the proceedings, an element that fits in beautifully with Braxton's larger conception but had previously been surprisingly under-represented. The pieces are considerably varied, even within the strict forms that Braxton has laid out as parameters; a standout is the extremely long and sinuous theme from "Composition 287" that winds its way through the space, probing odd nooks and crannies for the instrumentalists to explore at their leisure later on. The concluding duet (dedicated to Don Van Vliet) between Braxton and Shiurba is a marvel of intricacy, the composed lines intertwining delicately around each other, the improvised portions spinning off the central stems like curling tendrils. Six Compositions [GTM] 2001 is music of depth and imagination and showed that Braxton was still capable of discovering new and exciting territory more than three decades into his career. A must-have for his fans.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Composition No. 286 (Tentet)
1 Anthony Braxton 24:02 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Composition No. 286 (Tentet)
1 Anthony Braxton 01:35 Amazon
2 Anthony Braxton 31:26 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Composition No. 286 (Tentet)
1 Anthony Braxton 18:59 Amazon
2 Anthony Braxton 24:33 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 4

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Anthony Braxton 18:26 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick