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December 1998

Anthony Braxton
Compositions No. 10 & No. 16 (+101)
Hat Art Records

If Wynton Marsalis can have his Stanley Crouch, then Braxton surely can have his Art Lange. Lange, the highly regarded Chicago-based jazz journalist, arranged and conducted this collection of otherworldly improvisational music for quintet. The music is quintessential Braxton-spacious, whimsical, probing, and yes, difficult.

This program however does have brief implications of swing, especially on "Composition No. 16 (+101) where Michael Cameron's tosses in an elephantine walking basslines that sounds like Mingus being resurrected out of a Kandinsky painting. The wonderful harmonies crafted by clarinet, alto saxophone, bass, and accordion surprisingly sound less frightening than they appear on paper. There's a certain amount of calmness that distinguishes this CD from the more turbulent ones. Maybe it's those tranquil linear passages from bass clarinetist, Gene Coleman, and alto saxophonist Guillermo Gregorio, or the robust undercurrents performed by Cameron's arco bass, but this is Braxton at his most cerebrally-romantic.

Yet with other recent Braxton albums, this too requires Zen-like patience. But once this weirdness wears off (for purists, that's about 100 listenings a day), it amounts to a mentally invigorating experience.

Originally published in December 1998
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