Sextet (Molde) 2005

Every concert I’ve ever played with one of Anthony Braxton’s Ghost Trance small ensembles has been special. No other musical system I’ve participated in offers the kind of infinite choices of AB’s GTM: the balance between structure and freedom, composition and improvisation, ensemble and individual. These two concerts (Molde, Norway from 2005 and Piacenza, Italy from 2007) offer countless examples of the thrilling fluidity of Braxton’s music as interpreted by a true working band. During this period the Sextet was playing a good two or three tours a year, and all of us were diving into the music with relish, simultaneously comfortable with each other as musicians and familiar with the overall structure of “accelerator class” Ghost Trance, yet regularly surprised and inspired by each others’ fresh choices within the system.

Molde was a particularly memorable gig for the band, this time for a surprise that emerged from the audience. About halfway through the show, the music seemed to overwhelm a fellow in the crowd, who leapt to his feet and screamed “Fuck you!” at the band, before storming out of the concert hall. (A not-so-friendly experiencer, perhaps. It is not quite audible in the recording, but trust me, you could hear him clearly on the bandstand.) There was an unspoken psychic moment amongst the band as we considered his proposal, and unanimously rejected it as we dug ever deeper into Braxton’s sound world and wholly committed ourselves to the music with renewed fervor. As they say, if you’re not pissing anyone off, then you’re not really trying something different. And as always, Braxton is going for something different, and we’re lucky to be along for the ride. – Taylor Ho Bynum