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Anthony Braxton in Pittsburgh

Anthony Braxton rarely performs in the United States, so his three-day appearance in Pittsburgh represented a unique opportunity matched only by the situation that lured him to town: performances at the National Aviary performing among-and, presumably, with-the various bird species there. Two performances with the local Syrinx Ensemble, which features fellow Wesleyan professor Michael Pestel, were the swing votes that helped make the visit more enticing. The weekend of events, known as Braxton Plays Pittsburgh Plays Braxton also included a performance by the multi-reedist’s septet and readings of his work by both a high school ensemble and a collective of veteran Pittsburgh musicians, both conducted by Braxton. In between all this, Braxton managed to record some duets with Ben Opie, the Pittsburgh saxophonist who masterminded the events.

Slightly more than half of the 350 seats at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild might have been filled Friday night, but the attendees greeted the Braxton septet with the enthusiasm of a packed house. He was joined by Jessica Pavone (viola), Taylor Ho Bynum (brass), Carl Testa (bass), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Jay Rozen (tuba) and Aaron Siegel (drums, vibes). Once his trusty hourglass was inverted, Braxton gave the group some hand gestures and counted them in. “Composition Number 361,” the final Ghost Trance piece, which appeared recently on a Victoriaville disc by the 12tet + 1, framed the music.

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