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  Anthony Braxton 
  Quartet (Santa Cruz) 1993 - Second Set  
  (hatOLOGY) 


  
   review by Kurt Gottschalk
  2016-05-18
Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Santa Cruz) 1993 - Second Set (hatOLOGY)

If the first set Anthony Braxton's magnificent quartet with pianist Marilyn Crispell, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Gerry Hemingway played on July 19, 1993 at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz could be seen as evidence that Braxton's music works within (rather than challenging) the traditional structures of jazz, the second set they played that night can be seen as showing what has always (sometimes) happened when a jazz band gets warmed up.

The two sets (originally released as a double CD and now available separately) show arguably the best working unit in Braxton's long career at the peak of their power. The quartet had been recording and touring together for eight years and was soon to be retired as Braxton sought to expand into larger ensembles and new composition strategies. During the first set on that night in Santa Cruz, they demonstrated that the Braxton model stayed true to the jazz formula of playing a theme and playing the hell out of it. The only difference was that the quartet was free to riff on more than one theme at a time. By the second set, they were fired up. Crispell pounds, Braxton screams through his sax, Dresser and Hemingway roll like whitewater rapids. It is a rare achievement: the energy of free jazz with coherence lent by compositional threads. It isn't easy but it is revelry and a revelation.

I sometimes imagine a straw man calling Braxton's music cold, mechanical and academic, if only because so many people have lodged such complaints about him in the past. Writing about his music often makes me want to say, "play this one for the straw man, then he'll see!" In truth, there are many recordings in the Braxton discography (the two Santa Cruz sets included) that would serve such a purpose. Just give a listen, I exclaim to the imaginary straw man. You might find yourself in receipt of a brain and a heart!



Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Santa Cruz) 1993 - Second Set
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