Anthony Braxton - Five Pieces 1975 (1975), 9/10

Starting with the electric performance from Dave Holland and his joyous back and forth interplay with Braxton in the standard "You Stepped Out of a Dream" and ending with Braxton's absurdly complex performance in "Comp. 40 M" is enough to make this record an absolute giant in progressive jazz music. There is truly no wasted moment lacking intentionality, strength, and vitality in the entire recording. Not enough can be said of Braxton's virtuosity, creativity, and bravery at this point in his career, especially following the holistic and impressively varied yet deeply complex statement and musical showcase that is New York, Fall 1974. Braxton’s multi-instrumentalist talent is on full display as he showcases his virtuosity on alto, clarinet, sopranino, flute and contrabass clarinet. While its accessible, harmonious compositions give it a surprisingly wide appeal, the sprawling "Comp. 23 E" really pushes this recording over the top with its varied experimentation and breadth of sound, giving it a place among Braxton’s more progressive, technically impressive and forward-thinking efforts. While it doesn’t quite reach the impressive technical variety of its predecessor, Five Pieces still explores a lot of interesting ideas and sounds, Altschul especially adds a new vigor to these arrangements in a way previously unheard. Those who enjoy Braxton’s academic approach featured on this album’s predecessor will relish a track like “Comp. 23G” and its simultaneous rhythmic and melodious histrionics. The musicians’ communicative playing is exceptional on every track, although “Comp. 23G” is a strong point for this aspect of playing, yet the compositions are so honed by expert execution through to the end, it is more of a conceptual strength than one in raw execution. Of course, the introspective yet technically complex "Composition 40M" is sprawling and grand. The composition is wonderfully progressive and fantastical, almost psychedelic at times. One of Braxton’s greatest recordings, and one of the best in seventies jazz for its complexity in composition and passion in performance.