This is another of my favourite & most recommended Braxton recordings, scaling a large gamut of his styles from, for me, his greatest period. Bolstered by both George Lewis & Kenny Wheeler, the exceptional double act Barry Altshcul & Dave Holland & on the final splendid piece – The Berlin New Music Group (an Avant-Classical ensemble conducted here by Herr Hummel). Naturally, brilliant performances emerge from everyone, & Braxton himself renders both awesome playing & compositional accomplishment in a toweringly versatile pallet & persona.
The opening track starts very slow & prostrated with a protracted emergence phase before initiating a mid-paced swing current that serves as a vehicle for Braxton’ super expressive soloing. Altschul as always swings like an absolute maniac! with a magnificent precision & flair. He also aggravates the rhythm, regularly pulling in-&-out of time & standard chronicity, refusing to stay a linear course. One of the greatest drummers ever! Holland, having what for him could be considered a fairly reserved time, gets the chance to exfoliate with a bass solo, which as you would expect is the bloody bollocks!
Side two is a bit of a struggle for me & falls in to some kind of mad professor mathmaticus circus march modus. Very interesting, intellectual, abstract but for me also dry, ambiguous & overly academic. That is of course just my interpretation & evidently high virtuosity & non-conformist composition & improvisation are at play. Interestingly & as a perfect example of disparate opinions – producer Michael Cuscuna proclaims on the linear notes that the second piece on side two is “one of the pinnacles of collective jazz playing”. I will not fault that observation at all, but do not personally get the same kind of gratification from the piece. Of course YOUR OWN interpretation is all that counts!.
The second segment of side-3 effuses some magnificent playing & soloing from all members. George Lewis is for me especially conflagrant disseminating some excruciatingly expressive clarion.
Finally, on side four comes what is for me the greatest cut on the album which pitches Braxton & Lewis unto The Berlin New Music Group. It’s actually one of Braxton’s greatest recorded moment’s full-stop if you ask me. An extremely atmospheric, richly permutating piece that expresses a reserved gentleness but also is replete with vigour & business in many spaces, never becoming bland, sclerotic or soporific as this kind of stuff very’ very easily can. The variegations, ornate details & numerically expansive shifts in sounds, instruments, angles & schisms are wondrous. Braxton also never plays a dull note & seems to load in more emotion & twists on sound than usual. It’s one hell of a performance & the entire piece really leaves a profound impression & thoroughly imbedded experience of an “out of orthodox” experience. Fantastic stuff. “some how we got through it!” one of the musicians concludes at the end. Yes! & in stellar form.
Availability wise, many of Braxton’s Arista LP’s &, I believe specifically this one & the equally excellent “The Complete Braxton 71”, were printed in very large numbers & are thus plentiful & easy to source (for reasonable prices too). For more devoted specialists, a super deluxe Arista-Braxton discography CD series is in circulation which if I am not mistaken spans all his recordings on the label with tons of extra liner-analysis etc.
Rekd: 1975 & 1976