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Anthony Braxton: Quintet (Basel) 1977 (HatHut)

Anthony Braxton: Quintet (Basel) 1977 (HatHut)

With reissues it is all about the package. This package is deficient. The verbal diarrhea of Art Lange’s uninformative liner essay fills three panels of the cover. And the sound sucks.

Yet Lange is not wrong when he says that this “temporary, even fleeting ensemble” was one of Anthony Braxton’s strongest. On the evidence of the first track alone, “Composition 69 J,” George Lewis is the best musician to ever play avant-garde jazz on trombone. He is as fast (and fearless, and reckless) as any trumpet badass. Drummer Charles “Bobo” Shaw and bassist Mark Helias rarely worked with Braxton. Shaw’s racket sometimes becomes static, but Helias turbocharges this music. The revelation here is Muhal Richard Abrams. Few Braxton bands have had a piano chair. The harmonic relativity of Braxton’s world almost precludes pianists. Abrams opens new vistas upon every Braxton song he touches—or, rather, every Braxton song he drowns in wild lyric onslaughts.

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