Two weeks after his sixtieth birthday, progressive jazz-improvisation and avant-garde legend Anthony Braxton was invited to partake in a sequence of performances with various ensemble aggregations in Ulrichsberg, Austria. This boxed set includes four lengthy works, where each composition is presented on a per disc basis. However, disc-one (Composition 301) comprises a thirty-four solo piano recital by Genevieve Foccroulle. Perhaps the least interesting component of this gala, the pianist’s rather laborious and evasive chord clusters are constructed upon fractured min-motifs and asymmetrical flows. Moving forward, Braxton’s "Composition No. 96+134" (tri-centric version) is executed by the Ulrichsberg Tri-Centric Ensemble, where intersecting strings and horns movements present a multi-tiered backdrop. Improvisation is a key component as Braxton performs on reeds and electronics while also conducting the large ensemble’s morphing of free-form jazz with portentously crafted sub-themes. Moreover, longtime Braxton affiliate, trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum’s soaring lines offset the somewhat ordinal panoramas presented here.
The enclosed booklet features insightful liners by Stuart Broomer amid Braxton’s description of his ideologies, processes and music stylizations such as "The Ghost Trance Music, and "The Falling River Music. Heady stuff, indeed! Otherwise, "Composition 323a for trio (with electronics)," offers a tightly-woven avant/jazz perspective. Braxton’s buzzing sax lines and subtle EFX treatments act as the primary conduit. At times the trio generates enraging free-form maneuvers, abetted by Aaron Siegel’s polyrhythmic percussion implementations. And he uses the vibes as a means for fusing an abundance of tonalities into this moveable feast for the aural senses. Then on disc four, the Tri-Centric Ensemble engenders an austere viewpoint when performing "Composition No. 169+147". Think of turbulent strings passages, stilted opuses and budding undercurrents.
In effect, these works highlight Braxton’s irrefutably, complex musical visions. In some instances, the music is icy-cold but steeped within intricately devised geometrical processes, enabling the soloists to expand and contract. Musical theorists might marvel at these sides, yet on the flip side, the ultra-cerebral output of this program seems more conducive to a cyclical reengineering effort. However, the artist challenges the willing listener, as a sense of reality is sliced apart and revitalized into some sort of amorphous state of being.