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Anthony Braxton: GTM (Syntax) 2017 (New Braxton House)

A review of the composer and multi-instrumentalist's 12-disc set

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GTM (Syntax) 2017 by Anthony Braxton
The cover of GTM (Syntax) 2017 by Anthony Braxton

Certain recording projects are so vast in their conceptual scope that attempting to process their remit can feel like being a test pilot in a science-fiction drama. So, buckle up, buckaroo, for this 12-CD Anthony Braxton odyssey that features none of Braxton’s horn play and centers exclusively on his vision as a composer for voice of what Braxton terms the Rosetta Stone of his music systems, that being the Ghost Trance Music compositional decoder ring. I can find that kind of thing screwy—if you have to serve me much exegesis in terms of what you’re up to, the music is normally not accessible. Luckily, for all of his depth, Braxton has always been. Mostly. This isn’t exactly sitting down to kick back with a Horace Silver jam, but we have entered the lair of the jazz sirens.

The Tri-Centric Vocal Ensemble is basically the house band of these sessions, with member Kyoko Kitamura acting as Braxton’s aide-de-camp in his exploration of polyphony. Cut in mid-January of 2017, each vocal symphony immediately invokes a sonic mise-en-scène, suggesting a laboratory rather than a recording studio. With the opening “Composition No. 192,” funereal voices enter as if borne atop winds, remnants from a concluded service for the dead. Those voices modulate into a bebop bridge that sounds like a choir of Charlie Parker solos.

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