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From 1985 to 1994, Marilyn Crispell, Mark Dresser and Gerry Hemingway were three-quarters of the Anthony Braxton Quartet, one of the most exciting and innovative groups in jazz, which explored new kinds of structure and fresh approaches to improvisation. The trio re-formed in 2010 to play at Braxton’s 65th-birthday festivities, whereupon Tzadik invited them to record this disc.

Given the trio’s familiarity with so much of Braxton’s enormous oeuvre, the CD’s meagre 40-minute duration is inexcusable; however, the playing itself is top notch and the works chosen, though all written pre-1985, do indicate the variety of Braxton’s innovative forms, from Composition 23C’s catchy ‘additive repetition’ to Composition 116’s layered, synchronised ‘pulse tracks’, sounding here like a spiky, demented march music.

As before, the trio deal expertly with the music’s technical complexities and rise to its more poetic moments, such as Composition 110A, once likened by Braxton to ‘the sensation of “blowing winds and trees” (on an island experiencing a rainstorm)’. They bring their own fierce clarity to the music too, showing it can stand apart from its creator; with his reeds absent, Crispell’s piano becomes the lead voice, hammering an intense improvisation from Composition 69B’s ‘language music’ and skipping gaily through the bebop- inspired Composition 40B. Dresser and Hemingway are just as superb in what is essentially democratic ensemble music. So, though it may only be half a CD, it’s definitely half full rather than half empty.

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Piano International, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing