Quartet (Moscow) 2008
One of the more exciting and encouraging developments in jazz during the past few years has been the re-emergence of improvisational legend and theorist Anthony Braxton. After spending years relatively out of sight and sound in academia, Braxton is again putting his ideas into vibrant practice at festivals and concerts, and on recordings.
Quartet (Moscow) 2008, a live album, consists of the 70-minute “Composition 367B” and a three-minute encore. The recording provides a sturdy example of what Braxton is up to in the current phase of his musical life, devising intriguing new settings with sympathetic musicians – often his students/allies – and nurturing possibilities for improvisational magic. Taylor Ho Bynum, a key figure in Braxton’s renewed activity and presence, makes a fine young foil on cornet, flugelhorn, assorted trumpets and valve trombone, mirroring Braxton’s tendency for having multiple axes at the ready. Electric guitarist Mary Halverson comes out of a post-Derek Bailey school, but with her own sense of abstracted flair and painterly restraint on an instrument often given to pomp and excess, while bassoonist Katherine Young lends a chamber-like air to the proceedings.
As for the leader himself, Braxton, 63 and sounding as strong as ever, stays true to his ideals, blending compositional, navigational structures with maximal margin for free, sensitive ensemble playing. As atonal and arrhythmic as the musical landscape becomes, the music contains drama, mystique, lyricism and even, dare I say it, shades of swing.
- Josef Woodard