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Anthony Braxton Quintet

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It was a rather strange sight. Through the snow falling near the intersection of Harper and Van Dyke one could see the brightly-lit mar{ quee of the old Eastown Theatre, I known since last year as the case. Where the ñames oí Anee Cooper, Black Sabbath, the A11L man Brothers, J. Geils Band k and other big-name white rock stars once stood, tonight giant two-foot-high letters proclaim: ANTHONY i BRAXTON. Braxton is not in the super-star rock and roll business; in fact, it has been suggested that the best word to describe him is "out": "out there," or out of the l mainstream of AmerV ican popular music altogether. His quartet- Braxton on alto saxophone, sopranino. eontra-bass clarinet and ñute: Leo Smith on trurrmet, flugelhorn, pocket ulJ trumpet, and miscellaneous Instruments; Dave Holland, bass; and Phillip Wilson, drums-plays a music that is mostly improvisational, inside compositional frameworks which are designated not by names but by complex quasi-mathematical tormulae compnsed of numbers, lines, and unusual punctuation devices. So Braxton isn't widely heard on the straight-jacketed radio formats which abound these days, and his performance at the Showcase was actually his fust Detroit-area concert appearance. But inside the former rock temple an audience which included young and old, back and white, hippies, hipsters, mods and straights was wildly enthusiasticcheering solos, demanding encores, standing, applauding. Various critics on both sides of the Atlantic have praised Braxton in the highest of terms as one of modern music's foremost innovators. More to the point, he and his coworkers are experimenting with- playing with- the shape, form, and the very idea of mus ie. They are explorers and their side of things is one we need to be able to hear and relate to if we want to see music continue to develop and i change. Braxton, Leo Smith j son (Holland is a Briton) have long been associated with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicíans (AACM)iin Chicago,, analliance oí composers, improvisors and experimenters'organized in 1966 by young Chlcagobased musicians i ing Muhal Richard Abrams, Joseph Jarman, Roscoe Mitchell, , roy Jenkins, and others trying to further tlie development of their new, creative, jazz-based music. Braxton and Srnith, along witli many t)ther AALM-identihed players, have toured Europe and Japan extensively, played countless college campuses and festivals in the States, and study and teach musicexperience which is demonstrated with especial brilliance at their concerts as they bnng exciting lite to each oí their unusual compositions. Special mention is due Phillip Wilson, who helped instígate some of the most intense, inspired playing of the evening with liis non-stop, funky, high-energy precisión on the drums. Wilson, who first visited Detroit asa member of the Roscoe Mitchell unit in 1966, usad to keep thiings together for the Paul Butjterfield Band in the late 60's and early 70's, and he literally drove the whole quartet at times with his stomping, arm-waving attack. This music has been missing here for all too long- it shouldn't be so unusual, really, to ex'perience people like Braxton, Smith, Holland and Wilson at the large concert t'acilities. Happily, the people at Probity Productions seem determined to bring us even more.