Anthony Braxton - Seven Compositions (Trio) 1989 (1989), 8/10

Anthony Braxton's Seven Compositions (Trio) 1989 stands as one of his most challenging yet profoundly rewarding recordings. Braxton's self-proclaimed designation of his playing as "blues" goes beyond the traditional definition, delving into a deep-rooted, ethnically driven characterization of his background and emotional expression. This sentiment reverberates throughout the album, evident not only in Braxton's masterful performances but also in the group's exceptional interplay. From the very beginning, Tony Oxley demonstrates his drumming prowess, annihilating the kit with an unmatched intensity that persists throughout the entire record. His dynamic and commanding presence provides a solid foundation for Braxton's diverse musicality and structures. Meanwhile, Adelhard Roidinger contributes chilling sections that further fortify Braxton's sonic explorations, adding depth and texture to the ensemble's sound. The exploration of the blues as a vehicle to convey themes of death and war becomes particularly apparent in "Composition 40G", a piece Braxton refers to as an 'open blues structure' and 'a perceived new music about perceived old times'. In one of the most intriguing statements in jazz, Braxton declared a year prior to this recording that his compositions could be played 'simultaneously, all together or in any combination'. This unconventional approach leads to a unique assembly on the album, where Roidinger plays the bass part for "Composition 63" while Braxton performs "Composition 40G." Later, Braxton and Roidinger intertwine on "Composition 110A" while Oxley engages with "Composition 108B." Roidinger then switches to "108B" while Braxton explores "69J", resulting in a mesmerizing blend that Braxton aptly describes as 'crumbling into open improvisation'. Notably, Tony Oxley, a leading figure in European free improvisation at the time, contributes his composition, "The Angular Apron", which adds a fresh perspective and distinct tonal palette to the already established musical statement by Braxton. The piece not only complements Braxton's vision but also expands the boundaries of what Braxton and Roidinger can bring to the table, incorporating elements from an entirely different musical perspective. The collaboration between Braxton and Oxley, built on mutual respect and artistic freedom fostered by their previous work together, results in a bold and brave composition. In contrast to Oxley's assertive approach, Roidinger, a newcomer to the trio, delicately rounds out the group's sound with more traditionally beautiful and poetic bass playing. His tones, at times delightful and delicate, create a captivating juxtaposition against the aggressive and passionate performances from Oxley and Braxton. The interplay between these three musicians is captivating, forming an idiosyncratic group that pushes the boundaries of jazz music continually and in the form of a battering of old ideals. Ultimately, Seven Compositions (Trio) 1989 stands as a virtuosic masterclass in free improvisation, showcasing the exceptional talents of Braxton, Oxley, and Roidinger. With this particular recording, and with much of Braxton's music beyond, we are treated to an extraordinary display of creativity, exploration, and musical daring. Braxton's compositions, the dynamic interplay between the trio members, and the overarching sense of artistic freedom make Seven Compositions (Trio) 1989 a remarkable testament to the ever-evolving nature of free jazz.