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Anthony Braxton: Quartet (GTM) 2006

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“The underground is great once you get used to it,” writes Anthony Braxton in the liner notes to this multi-disc set, one of many in the reedman-composer’s elephantine discography. He’s speaking as an artist, but the same truth applies to listeners. “Getting used to it” is exactly the frame of mind in which to digest these four challenging discs, each representing a single composition without breaks or ID markers: a combined total of 224 minutes of music, stretching oceanlike into the distance.

Braxton has declared an end to his Ghost Trance Music period, but the documentation of GTM is apparently not complete. On this 2006 session, recorded at his Wesleyan University home base, he plays Composition Nos. 338, 340, 341 and 346 with pianist Max Heath, bassist Carl Testa and percussionist Aaron Siegel. Those familiar with the voluminous Nine Compositions (Iridium) 2006 (Firehouse 12) will recognize Testa and Siegel as the rhythm section-for lack of a better term-of Braxton’s 12+1tet. Jettisoning the strings, brass and multiple reeds of the larger group and paring down to a quartet, Braxton pursues a radically different economy of sound. The inclusion of a keyboard instrument is notable, though not unprecedented: Braxton has recorded GTM works with accordionist Ted Reichman and pianist Kevin Uehlinger (not to mention bagpiper Matthew Welch).

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