Anthony Braxton - Four Compositions (GTM) 2000
  • 01 Composition 242
  • 02 Composition 243
  • 03 Composition 244
  • 04 Composition 245
  • 01 Composition 242
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (20:30) [46.92 MB]
  • 02 Composition 243
    Genre: Avantgarde
    MP3 (13:45) [31.49 MB]
  • 03 Composition 244
    Genre: Jazz
    MP3 (18:47) [43.01 MB]
  • 04 Composition 245
    Genre: Avantgarde
    MP3 (16:27) [37.65 MB]
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Anthony Braxton
Four Compositions (GTM) 2000
Delmark DG 544 (2003)

To paraphrase the old stock brokerage commercial: “When Anthony Braxton plays, people listen.” And they have been doing so for decades, through dozens of recordings spanning an evolution that is remarkable for its independence and virtuosity. Braxton’s first two albums, Three Compositions Of New Jazz (Delmark 415) and For Alto (Delmark 420) were released on Delmark and it is only fitting that the present rare quartet version of his self-described Ghost Trance Music be released more than thirty years later on the same label.

1. Composition 242 20:24
2. Composition 243 13:40
3. Composition 244 18:42
4. Composition 245 16:26

All compositions by Anthony Braxton, Synthesis Music, BMI

Anthony Braxton, flute, soprano, alto, baritone and contra-bass saxophones
Kevin Uehlinger, piano, melodica
Keith Witty, string bass
Noam Schatz, percussion

Album Production and Supervision: Robert G. Koester
Assisted by Steve Wagner
Recorded by John Rosenberg in 2000, released in 2003

To paraphrase the old stock brokerage commercial, "When Anthony Braxton plays, people listen." And they have been doing so for decades, through dozens of recordings spanning an evolution that is remarkable for its independence and virtuosity. While Braxton has been criticized occasionally for over-intellectualizing his compositions (something that in most cases is ridiculous on its face for anyone who
has listened to his recorded output), his fiercely independent paths and disregard for commercial considerations have led him to terrain that few others have traversed.
Braxton’s seminal solo recording For Alto (Delmark 420) was released on Delmark Records in 1969 (and hailed by Thom Jurek in the All Music Guide as "maybe one of the greatest recordings ever issued, period.), and it is only fitting that this rare and impressive quartet version of the saxophonist’s self-titled Ghost Trance Music is released more than thirty years later on the same label.
Much has been written about the Ghost Trance Music (including a recent very detailed exposition -- with a fascinating explanation of the notational geometrical shapes - by Braxton himself in the liner notes to Six Compositions (2001) (Rastacan Records 050)), and as with everything Braxton has accomplished there are significant philosophical underpinnings to his work. While those willing to take the plunge and study the theoretical foundations for the compositions will be rewarded for their efforts with a deeper appreciation of the music, the beauty of the compositions is that they can be appreciated on so many levels. According to Braxton, "It is not important at all to know theory: The new listener should come to this music as with any music."
For these four compositions (simply numbered 242 through 245), the usual pulsating rhythms are found, but with a slightly different twist, marking this as one of Braxton’s most accessible and fascinating recordings. For one thing, the traditional instrumentation of the saxophone, piano, bass, and drums sets the pace so that there is more individual improvisation (what Braxton coins "mutable logic decisions") than is often the case with the larger groups. Those who revel in Anthony Braxton’s incredible solo technique will enjoy his many improvisations on an array of instruments including the soprano, alto, and baritone saxophones, and the unwieldy contra-bass saxophone, which Braxton somehow manages to perform with uncommon elegance.
While the role of melody is diminished, it still exists, albeit abstractly, and ties the pieces together in combination with the linear rhythmic pulses.
How do you measure one man’s contributions? One way is through his progeny, and Anthony Braxton’s teaching at Wesleyan University has led to one of the most remarkable tales of influence in modern music (of any genre), as his not inconsiderable student following has influenced a wide range of up-and-coming virtuosi who have benefited from his stewardship. Some of his disciples -- such as Kevin Norton, Seth Misterka, Scott Rosenberg, Kevin O‚Neal, and Kevin Norton, to cite a handful - have built or are in the process of building distinguished careers themselves. Three former students constitute the rhythm section on this recording.
One of these, the Baltimore native and very talented keyboardist (and extraordinary melodica player -- just hear him on No. 244), Kevin Uehlinger (now living in Brooklyn, New York), studied with Braxton for several years and describes some of the strategies of this performance. "The group was not given the music until the time of recording, the idea being to have as little rehearsal time as possible.
We had seen only one composition in advance, as Braxton likes to keep it spontaneous. While some of the written parts are very difficult technically, we went to the studio without any preconceived notions; essentially, we were flying by the seat of our pants." In other words, by keeping the written parts secret before the recording and by choosing technically superior performers, Braxton ensures there is a freshness to each piece, unencumbered by cliché or predetermined licks.
Uehlinger notes that the music here can be seen as a new roadway for the composer: "This is a change in direction from some of the other Ghost Trance recordings," he says, "as the pulses are brokenup."
Often, parts are written out and then the individual performers insert melodies or snippets from other pieces. As Uehlinger explains: "The compositions we chose to incorporate into the pieces were from the 130 series. For example, on the last track (No. 245), I play actual parts of Braxton’s written piano solos from Composition 139. Braxton gives us a lot of freedom within the limits of the system. Each
of the pieces is 4 or 5 pages of notated material. Within each structure we can loop certain material, or go into different areas. It is constantly changing, and determining which player is improvising and which is playing notated music cannot be easily ascertained. „
Uehlinger elucidates: "You are constantly moving between composition and improvisation. The impetus is determined by you and by the composition itself. It is very challenging, but also fulfilling, to play this music."
What about chord changes, something that has been a constant of jazz through the years? Says Uehlinger: "On Number 243 I play a sequence of chords, but otherwise there are no chord changes. When Braxton solos, the tones suggest a chord harmonically, but there are no chord changes in the usual sense. There are rarely bar lines. The notation sometimes looks like a page with dots on it. There are brackets that function to cause you to repeat a section. Many of the sub-compositions have bar lines, but often the music doesn’t." Braxton sums it up: "Ghost Trance Music comes in every size and shape."
Along with Uehlinger, the remaining members of the rhythm section form a splendidly cohesive unit. Noam Schatz, heard on percussion, is a key element in the music‚s success, as he navigates very tricky territory that demands not only quality musicianship but independent, soulful trajectories. A Massachusetts native, Schatz brings an eclectic hodgepodge that works singularly well with his unusually
diverse background in hip hop, Afro-beat, and rock and roll. The bassist, Keith Witty, might be best known for his collaborations with Big Apple drummer Guillermo Brown, who has immersed himself in that city’s vibrant free jazz scene. For this recording, Witty lays down important pulses, and solos imposingly.
For a variety of reasons, it all gels remarkably well particularly considering the extremely complex nature of the works. If Braxton’s career since his explosive solo album For Alto more than three decades ago can be seen as a continuum in which he constantly pursues new challenges and builds on past accomplishments, then this
album should be viewed as a high point in his career, not as revolutionary as the one recorded three decades ago, but nonetheless the work of an American icon who continues to push the limits, explores uncharted territory, and for whom the quest is as important as the conquest.

Steven Loewy/ December 2002
Steven Loewy writes for Cadence, the All Music Guide, and other
publications. His book on the jazz trombone is scheduled to be published
by Berkeley Hills Books in 2003.

Photo: Michael Wilderman/Jazz Visions
Design: Al Brandtner

Other Delmark albums of interest:
Anthony Braxton, 3 Compositions of New Jazz (415) with Leroy Jenkins, Leo
Smith, Muhal Richard Abrams
For Alto (420)
Joseph Jarman & Anthony Braxton, Together Alone (428)
Joseph Jarman, Song For (410) with Fred Anderson, Steve McCall
As If It Were The Seasons (417) with Muhal Richard Abrams
Muhal Richard Abrams, Levels And Degrees Of Light (413) with Anthony Braxton,
Leroy Jenkins, Maurice McIntyre
Young At Heart/Wise In Time (423) with Muhal Richard Abrams, Leo Smith,
Henry Threadgill
Things To Come From Those Now Gone (430) with Ari Brown, Rufus Reid
Roscoe Mitchell, Sound (408) with Lester Bowie, Maurice McIntyre
Hey Donald (475) with Jodie Christian, Malachi Favors, Albert "Tootie" Heath
Sound Songs (493) solo 2 CD set
Art Ensemble Of Chicago, Live (432)

4121 N. Rockwell, Chicago, IL 60618
CP 2003 Delmark Records

  • Members:
    Anthony Braxton & Ensemble
  • Sounds Like:
    jazz, free jazz, contemporary music
  • Influences:
    jazz, free jazz, contemporary music
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