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Anthony Braxton at the Roulette

My very good friend talked me into going with him to see Anthony Braxton at the Roulette this weekend. And, oh my, it was amazing!

There was a four-day series of Braxton’s work going on where, in many of the performances, he played in numerous acts throughout the night. We went to the last show, a performance of Trillium J (Acts I & III), which was basically his take on a free jazz opera. Perhaps, a “free opera”?

While I found the music really interesting, what I most enjoyed about the show was Braxton’s unique style of conducting. More than usual, the musicians and the conductor appeared to be communicating in their own special way. It looked like Braxton had developed a wide variety of singular hand motions that had their own special meaning, kind of like how he used to title his albums (which looked something like a mathematical representation of his music).

The venue was pretty small and there were probably about 50 or so folks there, which made it seem like a special secret that we had been let in on. The show lasted for about two-and-a-half hours and it was pretty darn intense, to say the least. I didn’t realize how involved I was in the storyline until I turned to talk to my friend during intermission and started stumbling over my words. (Perhaps I was performing “free speak”? Okay, okay, lame joke.)

I only wish that I could have better heard the vocalists during the show. Trillium J seemed to touch a lot on greed, consumerism, and technology (“sell out” and “outsell” were common refrains that punctuated the performance). The lines that I could hear were straightforward and often humorous, which I liked most of all. To me, art is nothing without humor.

Last night had me convinced that Braxton is a genius (and I’m not alone). His work is supported by the Tri-Centric Foundation. Now, go sign up for their newsletter so that you never miss the chance to see this amazing artist.

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