Town Hall Concert: Part 1
01. Composition I: S-37C-67B-F7 Dedicated To The Composer-Percussionist Jerome Cooper
02. Composition II: G-10 4ZI FK=47 Dedicated To The Composer-Pianist Frederic Rzewski
03. Composition II: G-10 4ZI FK=47 (Continued)
04. All The Things You Are
Town Hall Concert: Part 2
05. Composition III: W-12------B-46 C28-12...4 Dedicated To The Vocalist Jeanne Lee
06. Composition III: W-12------B-46 C28-12...4 (Continued)
CD Track Listing:
01. Composition 6 N (dedicated to Jerome Cooper) / Composition 6 (O) (dedicated to Frederic Rzewski) - 18:18
02. All The Things You Are (by Jerome Kern) - 14:12
03. Composition 6 P I - 13:46
04. Composition 6 PII (dedicated to Jeanne Lee) - 21:25
Concert organized by Anthony Braxton & George Conley; Recorded at Town Hall, New York, N.Y., on May 22, 1972 by John Sadler.
1 + 2 = Trio:
Anthony Braxton - alto sax
Dave Holland - bass
Philip Wilson - drums
3 + 4 = Quintet:
Anthony Braxton - alto sax, soprano sax, flute, contrabass clarinet, soprano & b flat clarinet, percussion
John Stubblefield - tenor sax, flute, bass clarinet, gong, percussion
Jeanne Lee - voice
Dave Holland - double bass
Barry Altschul - percussion, marimba
For those seeking the deep roots of Anthony Braxton's numbered series of compositions -- numbering close to 200 -- this 1972 concert is essential in that it features live recordings of "Composition 1" (for percussionist Jerome Cooper), "Composition 2" (for pianist Frederic Rzewski), and "Composition 3." This marks a return home, albeit a temporary one, for the composer and multi-instrumentalist -- Braxton left the United States for France in 1968, where he made a few recordings for European labels. Braxton showcases his work in a number of settings here -- in a pair of trios with bassist Dave Holland and drummers Phillip Wilson and Barry Altschul, and on "Composition 3" (for vocalist Jeanne Lee) saxophonist John Stubblefield and Lee herself become a part of the band. Also in the mix is in a wildly abstract but street-tough read of "All the Things You Are." On "Composition 1," Braxton, Holland, and Wilson establish early on what would be a trait in the composer's improvisations, which is the notion of a theme thoroughly stated, abstracted, deconstructed, and reconstructed into something wholly other while remaining recognizable. Critics have argued this, but those who deny it just don't listen closely enough. Here Braxton's first quotations from Warne Marsh make their way onto tape, and his manner of shifting pitch against chromatic and even whole-tone harmonics to create the appearance of diatonic abstraction comes into play as the body of the work. Holland plays away from it, moving toward Braxton's outer reach while Wilson moves inside the thematic construct, opening it up enough to keep Holland within reach of the subtle shifts some of the improvisation requires for articulation. On "Composition 2," the center moves outward with Altschul and Holland playing on the perimeter; Braxton's complex but nonetheless readily apparent lyric fragments keep them rooted to a space just within his reach improvisationally, inverting the traditional operation of a trio. Finally, on "Composition 3," Lee adds a kind of (a)tonal center as Braxton tries out six different reeds. Stubblefield offers a muscular counterpart to Braxton's more speculative tone, and offers a spatial figure for all things to exist in equally. Silence is an integral part of the dynamic in this quintet, where no player oversteps her or his placement within the construct of the whole. And while it is true, other than the cover tune, none of this "swings" per se; it doesn't reek of academia either. The playing here is soulful and engaging throughout it features some crack improvisation.
Time has an ability to obscure certain details of the past. This notion is apparent when considering the multi-decade oeuvre of visionary composer Anthony Braxton, whose restructuralist Tri-Axium Theory is as unique as Ornette Coleman's Harmolodic Theory or Cecil Taylor's Unit Structures. Braxton's use of pulse structures and multiple logics has long encouraged a considerable amount of expressive autonomy from performers, yet the composer's idiosyncratic aesthetic has commonly been attributed to an iconoclastic sensibility that inadvertently undervalues his seminal membership in the AACM—an organization whose collective ideology places great importance on group collaboration. Embracing this communal methodology more than most of his albums, the live concert recording Trio & Quintet (Town Hall) 1972 documents some of Braxton's most intriguing and embryonic experiments, conceived well before his elaborate concepts blossomed into the daunting complexities for which he is renowned.
Totaling in the hundreds, Braxton's numbered/graphical compositions have encompassed a wealth of technical innovations over the years; this set reveals the expansive dynamics of his Number 6 series realized in a range of approaches, from austere introspection to brash expressionism. The first half of the concert presents Braxton's oblique alto excursions supported by bassist Dave Holland and drummer Philip Wilson. Holland's earlier work with Braxton, pianist Chick Corea and drummer Barry Altschul in the avant-garde super-group Circle (1970-1971) lends his rapport with the leader an intuitive, freewheeling air. Holland's virtuosic pizzicato and Wilson's lithe, in-the-pocket accents provide Braxton's blistering chromatic flights a supple undercurrent through a range of extreme sonic dynamics, while framing the lyrical interpolations of an abstract reading of "All The Things You Are" with recognizably melodic footnotes.
The quintet pieces illuminate a far more esoteric aspect of Braxton's singular aesthetic. The expanded ensemble features Altschul replacing Wilson in the drum chair and multi-instrumentalist John Stubblefield serving as Braxton's foil, with vocalist Jeanne Lee stepping out front. Neo-classical in approach, the second half of the date waxes and wanes from aleatoric pointillism to roiling bouts of frenetic collective improvisation, with Lee's highly expressive vocalese uniting a kaleidoscopic array of instrumental textures, from Braxton's bellowing contrabass clarinet ululations to Altschul's effervescent marimba cascades. In addition to matching the leader's angular cadences note for note, Lee imbues Braxton's quixotic lyrics on the concluding "Composition 6 P II" with poetic finesse, bringing a stately sensibility to an early period of Braxton's work that is sorely under-documented, making Trio & Quintet (Town Hall) 1972 a truly remarkable reissue.