Kurt Gottschalk, The New York City Jazz Record Gazette (06/2023)
It takes a performance history to save a composer from the dustbin. Granted, that’s less true than it was before the recording age, but the digital era is arguably bringing back that ill-fated fast track. Recordings and scores won’t keep compositions in the collective memory. It’s ongoing performance that keeps them alive.

For a composer as prolific and brilliant as Anthony Braxton (who turns 78 this month), continued performance is vital. His work has been performed almost entirely by ensembles led either by himself or by musicians who have worked closely with him. With work so open to individual interpretation, it’s not just important for its future to have it performed; any such performance directly informs the present.

Kobe Van Cauwenberghe has engaged with, indulged in and absorbed the Ghost Trance Music, one of Braxton’s headiest and most exciting compositional systems. In 2020, he released his Ghost Trance Solos, an effective if counterintuitive guitar-looping approach to a performance process that allows for concurrent interpolations from across Braxton’s catalog, and does a convincing job at realizing a concept designed for in- the-moment ensemble subgroupings.

He has now expanded that effort to a full band, and to wonderful effect. The four performances on Ghost Trance Septet Plays Anthony Braxton—sourced from Compositions 193, 255, 264 and 358, each a bit over 20 minutes—ring clearly with Braxton’s voice, but as refracted by the musical personalities of a talented assemblage of Belgian and Danish players. Van Cauwenberghe employs a standard midsize jazz band lineup—trumpet, reeds, violin, piano, bass, drums—himself playing electric and nylon string guitars and adding some surprising synthesizer. Trumpeter niels Van Heertum provides some nice, murky euphonium on Composition 258, and off-mic vocals add to the fabric of Composition 255. But it’s on Composition 264 that the ensemble really comes into its own, with long and seemingly open passages and especially fiery soloing by the leader.

Performance histories are what move musicians associated with the jazz tradition from the entertainer role across the line to the (racially-defined and more esteemed under eurocentric standards) status of composer. The Ghost Trance Septet hasn’t just made an enjoyable (and very much so) record for the current moment; they’ve contributed to the future critical assessment of a musical mind as important as ellington and Riddle on the one hand and Stockhausen and Xenakis on the other.

Franpi Barriaux, Citizen Jazz France (15/01/2023)
Si rares sont les orchestres qui s’approprient la musique et la grammaire braxtonienne sur un album entier - en dehors d’un cercle large de musiciens étasuniens proches de la Tricentric Foundation - notons tout de même, avec un orchestre comme The Locals, que les initiatives se multiplient. Dernier exemple en date, le travail mené depuis 2020 par le guitariste belge Kobe van Cauwenberghe autour de la Ghost Trance Music (GTM), d’abord dans un saisissant solo, puis dans un album publié par les explorateurs de la scène flamande, El Negocito Records. Ghost Trance Septet Plays Anthony Braxton est un double album ambitieux et, pour tout dire, inattendu. Dès la « Composition 255 », que le saxophoniste avait enregistrée notamment dans la GTM (Iridium) 2007, un des enregistrements canoniques du genre, on comprend que Cauwenberghe est pleinement investi dans cette musique et qu’il entraîne ses compagnons dans une opulence de timbres et de chemins, bien aidé en cela par la rythmique solide de Teun Verbruggen (Flat Earth Society, Orchestra Della Luna...) et la basse puissante de Frederick Sakham. Ainsi, le trompettiste - et euphoniumiste - Niels van Heertum est très à son avantage dans cette construction musicale en cercles concentriques, caractéristique du genre, dont le guitariste s’affranchit parfois dans un feulement électrique.

Le petit train de la GTM est bien compris par Kobe van Cauwenberghe. La notion de mouvement inhérente à ce langage est très présente dans les quatre compositions choisies pour ce disque. Dans la 255, on retrouve le parti pris qui avait guidé Kyoko Kitamura dans son coffret GTM Choir en 2019, avec la répétition de phonèmes par les musiciens (ici des nombres) comme pour donner une articulation, et des pistes supplémentaires. Globalement, on perçoit que le travail de la chanteuse proche de Braxton a considérablement influencé le guitariste ; plus sans doute que Mary Halvorson, puisque van Cauwenberghe ne tombe jamais dans l’ornière de calquer son jeu sur celui de sa consœur, pourtant emblématique de la GTM. Mieux, dans la « Composition n°264 » qui semble n’avoir jamais été enregistrée par Braxton lui-même, sa guitare au jeu très tendu, très loin des brisures d’Halvorson, entre dans une mêlée d’où ressortent particulièrement le piano d’Elisa Medirulla et le violon d’Anna Jalving. On louera également le travail de Steven Delannoye, membre de l’Urbex d’Antoine Pierre, qui, bien que très présent, ne vampirise pas les morceaux et ne cherche pas à « jouer Braxton », laissant à Kobe van Cauwenberghe son rôle de maître d’ouvrage.

Cette « Composition n°264 » est un bel exemple du caractère très ouvert et enjoué du travail d’Anthony Braxton, et de la capacité pour des musiciens comme cette belle brochette de Belges d’en devenir de véritables passeurs. La nature de la GTM, c’est de raccrocher, à la manière de wagons, des compositions secondaires, souvent empruntées par des solistes, à un matériau primaire pour créer des multitudes de pistes, un multivers musical où chaque croisement est l’occasion d’un itinéraire inédit. Dans la « Composition n°264 », on retrouve donc notamment la « Composition n°40B » mais aussi la « Composition n°108A », deux pièces maîtresses du fameux quartet des années 80-90 avec Gerry Hemingway et Marilyn Crispell, manière pour Kobe van Cauwenberghe de se situer dans l’œuvre d’un artiste avec qui il a partagé la scène (Anthony Braxton était au piano) à Luxembourg il y a quelques mois. Un travail remarquable qui permettra une fois de plus d’apprécier l’approche idiosyncratique du grand compositeur étasunien.

FREE JAZZ BLOG'S TOP 10s OF 2022 (25/12/2022)

John Sharpe, All about Jazz (23/12/2022) ***1/2
Works by Anthony Braxton appear occasionally in the repertoire of others, but it is exceptional for entire albums to be devoted to them. That is especially true for some of his later works. But Belgian guitarist Kobe Van Cauwenberghe looks to rectify that. He already has one such outing under his belt—Ghost Trance Solos (ATD, 2020)—but his ambition propels him even further on Ghost Trance Septet Plays Anthony Braxton, where his assembled crew gets to grips with four of Braxton's knotty later pieces. The team comprises musicians accustomed to both contemporary new music and free improvisation, the perfect grounding to tackle Braxton's oeuvre.

Braxton's "Ghost Trance Music," which he performed from 1995 to 2012, evolved over that time from a non-repeating stream of regular notes to encompass ever greater complexity, but from the off it functioned as a framework within which any other pieces from his bountiful catalogue of works might be selected for inclusion by the participants. Several books have been written about Braxton's musical philosophy. Suffice it to say that his Ghost Trance system offers ample opportunities for individual expression. It might seem academic, but the effect is intoxicating.

While the Ghost Trance Septet may not be as accomplished as some of the Braxton outfits which first presented this material (and included such future luminaries as Steve Lehman, Mary Halvorson and Taylor Ho Bynum), they still make captivating, relentlessly interactive, music. All four pieces inhabit an emotionally and texturally kaleidoscopic soundworld, one which is restlessly changing and group-focused, without solos as such. It's rare for everyone to play at once after they depart from the initial minimalist unison themes. However the leader's guitar, along with the euphonium and trumpet of Niels Van Heertum, the violin of Anna Jalving, and percussion of Teun Verbruggen, are some of the most prominent performers, but everyone comes to the fore at some point during the 95-minute duration.

Each cut runs just shy of the 25-minute mark, during which time moods range from bristling polyphony to dreamy interweaving and much more. In their interpretations, the Septet brings out some unexpected facets from the charts, such as the playful melodic dimension of the hop, skip and jump of "Composition 255." One of the most arresting sequences here comes when the ensemble locks into the insistent riff of one of Braxton's classic post-bebop lines, "Composition 40f, in which" Cauwenberghe's guitar rages and thrashes. The curious listener can compare this and two of the other three renditions (although not "Composition 264" which is otherwise undocumented) with Braxton's own recorded versions, for further immersion in this singular universe. Unsurprisingly what they will find is that once they leave the unison themes, the trajectories are completely different.

In particular Cauwenberghe's Septet raids Braxton's back pages with abandon to insert some of his most distinctive pieces into the overall flow, not least the gloriously bravura march of "Composition 58" from Creative Music Orchestra 1976 (Arista, 1976), which is enthusiastically adopted during this reading of "Composition 358." Braxton's instructions for approaching his music, included in the illuminating liners by Timo Hoyer, contain such injunctions as "have fun," "take risks," "make mistakes and keep a sense of humor." The band embraces these exhortations wholeheartedly, such that what might become an exercise in over-reverential hands becomes a festival of creativity, joy and surprise.

Raul Da Gama, Jazzdagama (20/12/2022)
Although Mr Braxton’s may artistic conception may be accessible for the musically adept to wrap his or her advanced mind around – a melodic line sets up the approximate musical geography for the work before the interpreting musicians begin to embellish the storyline – yet Mr Braxton’s work is among the most technically demanding in the past one hundred years [at least]. This means that artists embarking on his repertoire have to aim to speak and sing in the composer’s radicalized musical language. Here too Mr Van Cauwenberghe’s septet – comprising musicians similarly attuned to Mr Braxton’s radical-speak particularly the prodigiously gifted brass player Niels Van Heertum – excel in their interpretations of the four works involved.

Disc One begins with the hushed sonorities of Composition No. 255 perched at the edge of audibility. Guitarist and the rest of the septet generate music in structural arcs that – as the composer probably envisioned – extend instrumental techniques and simultaneously shatter melodicism, harmonics and rhythmic patterns pf musical convention. Here one marvels at the musicianship of p9ianist Elisa Medinilla, bassist Frederik Sakham, and saxophonist and bass clarinetist Steven Delannoye.

A long sustained passage is ripped apart with abrupt instrumental scrapings before manic pizzacatos send melodic cells scattering into the outer limits of our ability to hear them. Instruments entwine, one embracing the other. A mystical phrase by the violin of Anna Jalving soars heavenward, creating a new ceiling for the melody to soar into and shatter once more. This is done as the musicians indulge in a final earth-shattering climax of the melody.

Mr Braxton’s supple philosophical distinction between music ans noise can take some acclimatization, but the layered music of this performance [other than ones Mr Braxton is himself involved in, that is] of his Ghost Trance Music articulates the arguments in its favour with outstanding clarity. Guitar, brass, the other strings [bass and violin] players and the percussion colourist in the sublime form of Teun Verbruggen bend their technique to Mr Braxton’s characteristically exacting specifications.

Musicians blow, hit and scrape their instruments to harvest mint-fresh timbres. In the unfolding of a septet musical discourse [especially on] Composition No. 193 a more highly evolved piece ensues. Mr Verbruggen’s mallets on skins combine together with the nerve-endings of the fingers and lips of other musicians to produce marvellous musical architecture.

Jagged sounds overlap and blend with super-pizzicato-fluido – while actual orchestral instrumentation transforms Composition No. 264. Instruments metamorphose into resonating sound objects as they are resolutely turned away from their usual orchestral function. Inside this dramatically expressive music is an altogether other kind of beauty exclusive to the music of Mr Braxton.

Dietrich Heißenbüttel, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 4/2022 , Seite 82 (09/2022)
Anthony Braxton ist viel zu lange als Jazzmusiker abgeheftet worden. Das ist vielleicht nicht völlig falsch, kommt er doch aus der Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) aus Chicago – die freilich lieber von Great Black Music spricht. Für Braxton hat jedoch Karlheinz Stockhausen von Anfang an eine ebenso wichtige Rolle gespielt. Er hat hunderte von Kompositionen für unterschiedlichste Besetzungen geschrieben. Hier beginnt jedoch das Problem: Braxton schreibt nicht «Werke», die werkgetreu zu interpretieren sind, auch wenn sie ein hohes Maß an Disziplin erfordern. Braxton schreibt, damit improvisierende Musiker: innen, die immer kreativ mit dem Material umgehen sollen, nicht in Routinen verfallen. Alle, die in seinen Ensembles gespielt haben, durch seine Schule gegangen sind, gleich welche Richtung sie dann einschlagen, sind erstrangige Musiker: innen, darin den Interpret:innen Helmut Lachenmanns vergleichbar.

Dass Braxton jedoch nicht selbst dabei sein muss, um die Musik richtig zu spielen, zeigt das Ghost Trance Septet des belgischen Gitarristen Kobe van Cauwenberghe auf der vorliegenden Doppel-CD. «How to Play Anthony Braxton?», fragt in der Tat Timo Hoyer, Autor eines 700-Seiten- Buchs über Braxton (s. die Rezension auf Seite 86), in den exzellenten englischen Liner Notes und filtert sogleich aus dem umfangreichen, nicht ganz einfachen musiktheoretischen Werk Braxtons die essenziellen Leitsätze heraus.

Braxtons Mitte der 1990er Jahre begonnene, 2006 abgeschlossene Serie Ghost Trance Music besteht aus 138 Kompositionen und steht an einem Wendepunkt seiner Entwicklung, von häufig vom Anlass bestimmten Einzelstücken hin zu einem zusammenhängenden musikalischen Kosmos. Der Titel bezieht sich auf den Geistertanz der nordamerikanischen Erstbewohner im Moment ihrer Niederlage. Den hämmernden Puls übersetzt Braxton in einen atonalen, monotonen Viertelrhythmus, der irgendwann aufgebrochen oder ergänzt werden kann durch sekundäres thematisches Material, Passagen aus anderen Kompositionen oder Improvisation, die freilich nicht der Selbstdarstellung dienen, sondern den Ensembleklang bereichern soll. Dabei tritt mal ein Sprechgesang, mal ein Marsch, Braxtons Komposition 58, hervor, getreu den Anweisungen die mit «Have fun with this material» beginnen und mit «… and be sure to keep your sense of humor» enden.

Dies ist nur das Grundschema; das Ensemble präsentiert auf den CDs vier Varianten des Typus, und tatsächlich entfaltet sich das Material im Lauf jeder der rund 24-minütigen Aufnahmen immer wieder anders auf unvorhersehbare Weise. Mal klingt es lyrisch, schwebend, dann wieder wirbelnd, frei oder rhythmisch vorantreibend, oft genug nicht nur das eine oder das andere, sondern mehreres nebeneinander. Der Komponist selbst konnte sich bei einer Aufführung in Luxemburg kaum halten vor Begeisterung, wie das Booklet in Wort und Bild festhält. Wie spielt man Braxton?, resümiert Hoyer zu Recht: Auf diese Frage biete die CD eine überzeugende Antwort.

Bruce Lee Gallanter, the Downtown Music Gallery NY (02/12/2022)
The Ghost Rance Septet consists of Kobe Van Cauwenberghe on electric & nylon string guitars, bass guitar, synths & voice, Frederik Sakham on double & electric basses & voice, Elisa Medinilla on piano, Niels Van Heertum on euphonium & trumpet, Anna Jalving on violin, Steven Delannoye on tenor sax and Teun Verbruggen on drums & percussion. At first glance I thought that drummer Teun Verbruggen was the only name I knew well here (from Bureau of Atomic Tourism & Flat Earth Society). Turns out that a few of these musicians are listed in the DMG database like: Kobe Van Cauwenberghe who has performed the music of Larry Polansky and Georg Friedrich Haas & odd comps like ‘The $100 Guitar Project’ & ‘ZWERM’. Niels Van Heertum has worked with Lynn Cassiers (great disc on CleanFeed for 2018). A couple of members can be found on the Neos & New World Records labels.

Anthony Braxton often composes in cycles. For around a decade, between 1995 and 2006, Mr. Braxton composed 138 pieces known as Ghost Trance Music (a/k/a GTM). Even for some serious Braxton fans (a/k/a Braxtonians), this cycle was pretty controversial: fans either loved it, tolerated it or disliked it immensely. No in between. I caught around a dozen or so of this series, including a full weeks worth at the 2nd Knitting Factory. Considering that each set was around an hour long and the varied sized ensembles played the same riff or line over and over, which would slowly change over time, some folks got bored and either walked out or fell asleep. Since I am a longtime Braxton fan-addict, I chose to adjust my expectations, turn off my internal clock and open up to the slowly evolving beast/composition. It took a bit of searching but I finally started to enjoy GTM more and more over time. Mr. Braxton did a meet & greet at DMG when the Ghost Trance Festival 10 CD box set was released in 1997 and afterwards we went out to eat at an Asian restaurant across the street from the store. During our meal, Braxton was interviewed by Ted Pankin for Downbeat. It was then that Mr. Braxton explained at length about the many ways of understanding what Ghost Trance Music is all about. He said that the GTM structure/essence was similar to a subway map, where many things are connected but we have to find a way to make these connections and bring them to life.

It is pretty rare for other ensembles to perform their own versions of Mr. Braxton’s compositions and even rare for anyone to do Ghost Trance Music. In the liner notes Braxton explains that the musicians are supposed to have fun playing his music and not get hung up on playing the correct way. This ensemble is a Belgian/Danish Septet and this performance was recorded at festival in Luxembourg in November of 2021. Mr. Braxton also played at this festival with a trio and was in the audience for this set. Mr. Braxton was excited by this performance of his music. Each of the two CD’s here contain two pieces, each piece around 25 minutes long. Similar to a strategy that Mr. Braxton has long employed, each piece contains between 3-5 different compositions which have been sequenced or layered. The instrumentation is much different from the original recorded versions which were often included several reed players. The Ghost Trance Septet instead includes: guitar, piano, bass, euphonium or trumpet, violin, tenor sax or bass clarinet and drums. It sounds to me like this ensemble has sped up the way things develop which is a bit more subtle and easier to enjoy. Two of the members use their voices to repeat certain numbers which adds some unexpected humor to the proceedings. Although the overall structure does have that repeating pattern at the center, certain musicians add their own counterpoint or lines. Since the music changes more rapidly, it becomes more exciting/compelling rather quickly. Since the rhythm team moves in waves, solos, duos or trios are often short and keep shifting through different currents. After listening to the first disc, I will admit that this is some of the best versions of Ghost Trance Music that I’ve heard. Absolutely superb on all levels.

Jean - Michel Van Schouwburg, orynx-improvandsounds blogspot(13/10/2022)
Anthony Braxton est sans nul doute un improvisateur et un compositeur peu commun, un éclaireur incontournable dans les musiques qui se situent au carrefour des innovations embrassant le jazz et son évolution, la composition contemporaine ouverte, la démarche improvisée sans concession et la musique sérieuse dans une dimension interactive et organique. Et quel saxophoniste ! Un de mes tout préférés (aux côtés de John Coltrane, Steve Lacy, Evan Parker, Eric Dolphy ou Sonny Rollins) que je me suis délecté à écouter des nuits entières. Mais je dois avouer ne plus parvenir à suivre ses enregistrements de ces vingt dernières années en raison de leur longueur (coffrets CD’s), d’une documentation exhaustive, de la durée des œuvres enregistrées proprement dites et le sentiment de récurrence systématique dans ses créations. Parvenir à pénétrer l’univers de la Ghost Trance Music demande à l’auditeur un travail intense, une grande disponibilité face à l’exégèse inévitable des exigences hyper-complexes du compositeur et sa science inouïe du collage. J’ai un excellent souvenir de m’être plongé dans un recueil de 4CD paru en 2001 chez Rastascan, le label du percussionniste Gino Robair : https://www.rastascan.com/catalog/brd050.html . La concentration et l’excitation de l’équipe rassemblée par Braxton et Robair à San Francisco avaient débouché sur des moments à couper le souffle, tirant parti des possibilités internes des structures braxtoniennes pour dérailler insidieusement vers des métamorphoses métriques et sonores à me faire dresser les cheveux sur la tête sans qu’il semblât que les musiciens chamboulent tout le processus installé depuis les premières mesures. Une impression de folie naturelle, une fantasmagorie structurée sur des beats audacieux où l’assise rythmique de la marche croise les ricochets de la musique dolphyenne et les soubresauts du tristanisme. Le livret des notes de pochette contient les explications du compositeur lui-même sur son travail, le sens de sa musique liée aux autres musiques et cultures de notre planète et sa conception des formes musicales (Tri-Centrique). En écoutant attentivement les deux CD’s superbement présentés avec les « images – titres » graphiques colorés des compositions d’AB, cet orchestre belge rassemblé par le guitariste Kobe Van Cauwenberge et drivé par l’excellent batteur Teun Verbruggen apporte tout aussi insidieusement la conviction que les œuvres de ce Chicagoan universel contiennent les semences d’une habile forme de subversion, de dérangement systématique des conventions et de surprises inattendues. Il faut dire que cela commence sagement comme si la baguette du maître coordonnait les efforts avec une discipline orchestrale où l’énergie semble un peu éteinte, tant cette musique est difficile à jouer collectivement et demande une telle concentration que celle-ci devrait bien brider l’élan et l’émotion. Il y a bien sur le fourmillement de de détails de tous les traits instrumentaux qui coïncident étroitement avec cette rythmique éminemment complexe voire fourmillante. Une performance en soi !! Mais au fur et à mesure que l’on avance au travers des quatre compositions, la fascination, l’enchantement grandit et l’expérience d’écoute devient largement positive, intrigante, … l’orchestre vivifiant l’état d’esprit compositionnel requis. Son exécution légèrement décalée nous livre des secrets parfois peu perceptibles mais agissant sur notre perception quasi-inconsciente jusqu’à provoquer un tournis intériorisé. Cet album remarquable a été produit en hommage à notre ami Hugo De Craen, braxtonophile en chef dont des extraits d’interview d’Anthony figurent en exergue sur la pochette en tryptique. Félicitations à tous les intervenants, musiciens, label, institutions et … le Conservatoire Royal d’Anvers!

TS Hoeg, Jazz Special Denmark 182, side 61 (09/2022)
Den toporiginale tænker, komponist og multi-instrumentalist, mestendels altsaxofonist Anthony Braxton har om nogen måtte finde sig i hovedrystende eller ligefrem latterliggørende opfattelser af sit flittige virke, men han har for længst taget højhastighedstoget videre og efterladt disse "small brain"-skeptikere tilbage på et trinbræt.

Et led i Braxtons senere oeuvre er begrebet Ghost Trance Music, som dette europæiske ensemble, ledet af belgiske Kobe Van Cauwenberghe, har sat sig for at dykke ned i til ovenikøbet ophavsmandens begejstring. Og det er ikke så underligt, thi dette omfattende materiale, der kræver både nodelæsning, gra-fisk forståelse, improvisations-kendskab, omstillings-parathed og en ordentlig portion abstraktionsevne, løser denne gruppe så fint som vel muligt.

Det er krævende musik, men for den nysgerrige lytter er der meget at hente, hvad angår tematikker, klange, dynamikker o i de konstante afvekslinger, der her rummer tire kompositioner med titlerne No. 255, 358, 193 og 264, hvori det også er muligt at inddrage andre af Braxton ligeledes nummererede titler, dr under alle omstændigheder udfolder sig over 20 minutter hver, Så tillige varmt at anbefale: It's alive.

Herman te Loo, Jazzflits nummer 382 (12/09/2022)
Gezien de omvang van zijn oeuvre is het best vreemd dat er relatief weinig werk van Anthony Braxton wordt uitgevoerd door anderen dan hemzelf. Het komt vermoedelijk door het stempel van ‘moeilijk’, ‘ingewikkeld’ en ‘cerebraal’ dat vaak onterecht op zijn muziek wordt gezet. De jonge Belgische gitarist Kobe Van Cauwenberghe is er al lang achter dat het werk van de Ameri- kaan helemaal niet zo ontoegankelijk is als het misschien bij oppervlakkige beschouwing lijkt. Twee jaar geleden speelde hij al een soloalbum vol met zijn visie op composities van Braxton en nu ligt er een dubbelalbum (op cd of lp) van een zevenmans- formatie, het Ghost Trance Septet. De naam verwijst naar een serie composities (Ghost Trance Music) die de rituelen van Native Americans als oorspronkelijk uitgangspunt hadden. Van Cauwenberghe en zijn muzikanten nemen de aanwijzingen van Braxton ter harte, en gaan hun eigen weg met het materiaal. ‘Have fun with the material,’ zegt de componist namelijk expli- ciet, en hij waarschuwt voor het ‘misbruiken’ van het materiaal voor ‘correcte’, ongeïnspireerde en risicoloze uitvoeringen.
Wat het Ghost Trance Septet wél doet, zoals Braxton zelf in zijn eigen groepen, is het inzetten van andere composities binnen de hoofdcompositie die wordt gespeeld. De routekaart van het stuk wordt daarmee telkens verlegd om het avontuur nog meer op te zoeken. In het eerste stuk, ‘Composition No. 255’, bijvoorbeeld, dat opent met de typerende staccatofiguren, zet euphoniumspe- ler Niels Van Heertum na verloop van tijd een grappige melodie- lijn in. Dat blijkt ‘Composition No. 40f’ te zijn. Voorzien van noise-erupties door de gitaar van Van Cauwenberghe klinkt de muziek als een soort avant-rock – niet iets wat je met Braxton associeert, maar wat uiterst boeiende muziek oplevert. En daar is het toch allemaal om begonnen. Wat deze melodie van ‘Com- position No. 40f’ ook duidelijk maakt, is de humor die in de composities van Braxton zit. De hoempa van het euphonium in de mars ‘Composition No. 58’ die we als invoeging in ‘Composi- tion No. 358’ horen, getuigt daar ook van. Alle ingrediënten, plus het indrukwekkende improvisatievermo- gen van de vier Belgen en drie Denen, zorgen voor bijzonder rijke muziek die Braxtons muziek zeker naar de geest uitvoert (een mooie referentie naar de Ghost Trance Music). Het is een vurig pleidooi voor een oeuvre dat veel vaker het podium zou moeten bereiken. Eind 2021 speelde de groep in Luxemburg in aanwezigheid van de Amerikaanse maestro, die het gebodene ontroerd aanhoorde. Voor in het cd-boekje zien we hem het ensemble zijn lof toezwaaien.

Ken Waxman, Jazzword Canada (08/08/2022)
As the modern Jazz repertory movement advances past the expected Miles-Tane-Monk-Bird homages, some adventurous types introduce a wider range of stylists whose music should be interpreted by others than the composers themselves. Case in point is this exemplary recasting of four of Anthony Braxton’s Ghost Trance Music (GTM) compositions. Anything but dogmatic, this Belgian-Danish septet’s performances adapt Braxton’s aleatoric concepts to interpolate part of his other compositions and their own improvisations to translate the quartet of tunes.

Directed by Belgian Kobe Van Cauwenberghe, who plays electric and nylon string guitars, electric bass, synths and vocalizes, the septet is an extension of his earlier solo GTM exploration. Auspiciously pushing aside any lingering ideas that the Braxton idiosyncratic canon is hermetic or obscure the seven project themes that are as playful and high-spirited as the pulsations from more so-called conventional music. Not forgetting that this effervescence has been present in Braxton’s work since his orchestral albums of the mid-1970s.

Responsible for much of this spirited energy is the euphonium embellishments of Belgian Niels Van Heertum. Van Heertum, who also plays trumpet here, often in bright or muted contrast and who has played with the likes of Jozef Dumoulin, uses the overgrown brass horn’s textures to suggest alphorn echoes, marching band huffs and most importantly overriding others’ interjections to confirm the narratives’ continuum. Van Cauwenberghe’s guitar riffs that encompass subtle finger-style motion and dial-twisting electrified flanges, make brief solo forays. But they’re as crucial in more dissonant situations as when he and violinist Anna Jalving create a near-folk music duo on “Composition 358”. Other times his picking mixes with portamento trumpet slides. There are also as many trio interludes as duo sequences during the two-CD set’s evolution. On “Composition 255” for instance, Van Heertum’s euphonium and Steven Delannoye’s bass clarinet decorate the evolving exposition as Frederik Sakham’s double bass firmly preserves the horizontal bottom. As themes sometimes detour to take on romantic, martial or Middle European embellishments, the strident key clipping and carefully positioned metronomic keyboard dynamics of Elisa Medinilla make a strong impression by toughening the interface. As well her playing sometimes intimates the beginning of a piano concerto as on “Composition 264”. The piano too is involved in distinctive duos and trios. But like the euphonium interjections, Medinilla, Sakham and drummer Teun Verbruggen assert measured rhythms. They’re most prominent at those points when it appears that combinations of the other instruments could lead to too much of a jolly party-like atmosphere or when a polyphonic sound miasma that threatens to crash and flutter the theme into a blurred dead end.

Taking advantage of all Braxton themes have to offer from fanfare to formalism to free-form, the Ghost Trance Septet have created a blueprint in how to play this music. More crucially, by emphasizing each member’s talent as well as Braxton sequences, they’re come up with an original piece of work true to themselves and the composer.

Mark Corroto, All about Jazz (28/07/2022) ****
Why is it that we remember the past but not the future? That is a question which theoretical physicists are continually fascinated by. Think about it for a moment, we rely on our flawed individual observations to make judgements about the world. A few hundred years ago, Earth was definitely flat and, by further inspection, the sun most certainly revolved around said Earth. It required some distance, say a spaceship, to get a clear perspective. The same can be said of Anthony Braxton's Ghost Trance Music. For the casual observer, his graphic scores are merely squiggly drawings with geometric shapes and colors; think an Albert Einstein equation. But to Kobe Van Cauwenberghe, the musician equivalent of a theoretical physicist, his scores are decipherable and an abundant wellspring of information. Van Cauwenberghe has previously released his solo guitar interpretations Ghost Trance Solos (all that dust, 2020), a remarkable recording of maestro Braxton's music.

With Plays Anthony Braxton Van Cauwenberghe has assembled a septet to record four GTM compositions, including "Composition 255" which he recorded on his solo outing. That composition opens the two discs and draws the listener into a literal hypnotic state that the music symbolizes. The sound, which is made up of repeated music cells, does not require the listener to understand Braxton's cryptographs to enjoy the event. One is only required to suspend classifications of music, be they jazz, classical, new, chamber etc., to be swept away by the GTM. Per Braxton's notations, his GTM should include mistakes, and "If the music is played too correctly, it was probably played wrong." Braxton's music is deconstructed utilizing Van Cauwenberghe's guitar, bass, synthesizers, voice, piano, euphonium, trumpet, saxophone, bass clarinet, violin, drums, and percussion, yet it never enters the state of entropy. Braxton's equations, although dense and indecipherable to most mortals, turn out to be readily accessible sounds if you leave your preconceptions about music and the nature of time at the door. Kobe Van Cauwenberghe's Ghost Trance Septet remembers both a Braxton future and a Ghost Trance past.

Slava Gliožeris, Music Archives (16/07/2022)
Anthony Braxton (born June 4, 1945) is one of the most respectable of creative contemporary music composer and musician, still active today (just a few months ago he played live in my hometown with his Saxophone Quartet). His early works(coming from 60s and 70s) are mostly from avant-garde jazz field, some are accepted as genre standards. Later Braxton moved towards cross-genre compositional forms, usually related with jazz, but containing elements of contemporary music hall music, some ancient folk, etc.

Braxton's one remarkable experimental work is a Ghost Trance Music series, inspired by 19th century Native American Ghost Dances and written between 1995 and 2006. The concept of GTM composition is based on idea, that there exists a "primary melody", which Braxton describes as "a melody that never ends". This line of music is written to be played in unison by any performer who wishes to participate in the "ritual circle dance". There are more information on Braxton musical legacy presented in nicely designed "organic" CD package's booklet, but generally one doesn't need to learn much before listening. Music itself is complex, but quite accessible.

Belgian guitarist Kobe Van Cauwenberghe, who created the project 'No [more] Pussyfooting', with music by Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, and is a member of electric guitar quartet Zwerm, is currently affiliated with the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp for an artistic research project on the music of Anthony Braxton. In 2020 he released "Ghost Trance Solos" - an solo guitar album with three Braxton compositions from Ghost Trance Music series recorded. "Ghost Trance Septet plays Anthony Braxton" is a logical continuation of Kobe's work - four Braxton Ghost Trance Music series compositions, recorded by skilled Belgium-Danish septet.

More current Braxton music is rarely played by other musicians and it's a shame. Differently from dominating composers, who often combine elements of different genres in one, Braxton returns back in a past trying to find the roots and the rules and codes of them, and uses what he found in his new written music, on an genetic level, not like inspiration or imitation. As a result, his music sounds as an engineered work, mechanically, but not formal, or dry since each brick has its own lively soul.

Van Cauwenberghe septet of guitarist (who in moments demonstrates that he is familiar with shredding guitar techniques playing in rock band), bassist, drummer, pianist, sax player and trumpeter plays selected Braxton compositions with respect and their own touch at the same time. For me, all program sounds as if six skilled professionals build a modern building - an unique one, with style and respect to the past, but without nostalgia, bravely looking ahead. Four compositions, 95-minutes of music, recorded on two CDss, happen to be an intriguing listening, which surprisingly lasted less then it was expected. Nicely realized great idea - hope we will hear more Braxton compositions, recorded by younger generation artists more often.

Guy Peters, Gonzo Circus 170 (09/07/2022)
Het even omvangrijke als intimiderende oeuvre van Anthony Braxton kent relatief weinig uitvoeringen waar hij zelf niet bij betrokken is. Een opvallende uitzondering is het recente werk van de Belgische gitarist Kobe Van Cauwenberghe, die een fascinatie ontwikkelde voor het transidiomatische werk van de componist, en dan vooral zijn 'Ghost Trance Music', een boek composities waarmee hij van start ging midden jaren 1990. Dat leidde in 2020 al tot een soloalbum, dat nu gevolgd wordt door een dubbelalbum met en Belgisch-Deens septet dat vier composities van Braxton onder handen neemt. Zo'n compositie kan tot tachtig pagina's tellen en bestaat vaak uit een primaire melodie en secundair materiaal, met daarbovenop nog een reeks symbolen die voor instructies staan. Dat suggereert een rigide klankenwereld, maar eigenlijk is niets minder waar. De muzikanten kunnen afwijken van een koers, intertekstuele referenties invoegen en vrij improviseren. Het is veelzeggend dat Braxtons eerste regel "have fun with the material' luidt. Een uitvoering die klopt' is een uitvoering zonder fouten, om nog maar te zwijgen over vrijheid en zelfexpressie. En dat krijg je volop in deze gulle release, die de luisteraar anderhalf uur lang onderdompelt in onvoorspelbaar hedendaagse en toch ok herkenbare muziek, die woelig geharrewar afwisselt met uitgedunde passages, soms komisch door de huiskamer lijkt te marcheren en intense pieken op de een of andere manier koppelt aan dartelende passages vol zwier en humor. Het is op en top ensemblemuziek, die soms stevig aanleunt bij de kamermuziektraditie, maar ook doordrongen is van de jazz als voortdurende transformatiekunst, ok al kleurt de instrumentatie - met euphonium, viool, basklarinet en zang - buiten de lijntjes. Het is bovendien een bonus om vertrouwde muzikale stemmen als Teun Verbruggen, Niels Van Heertum en Steven Delannoye binnen deze context aan het werk te horen. Braxton was naar verluidt erg opgetogen toen hij de band in 2021 live aan het werk zag. Snel wordt duideli)k waarom: de muzikanten grepen deze uitdaging aan met beide handen, want het potentieel is schier eindeloos. Voor de luisteraar geldt eigenlijk hetzelfde.

Tom Hull - on the Web (04/07/2022)
Guitarist, also credited with synths and voice, from Belgium (Antwerp), has a couple albums, including Ghost Trance Solos on this same music. Septet here covers a nice range with trumpet/euphonium, tenor sax/bass clarinet, piano, violin, bass, and drums (no names I recall running into). Four pieces, each 22-25 minutes. I've somehow managed to miss all of Braxton's Ghost Trance Music (GTM) recordings, so entered this with no particular expectations. But for tarters, most pieces are pretty bouncy, in that stilted way of old classical music (Bach?), but much less predictable, and much more interesting. B+(***)

Peter Margasak, The Best Contemporary Classical on Bandcamp: June 2022 (30/06/2022)
Despite his prodigious, mind-expanding compositional output, the music of Anthony Braxton remains largely the property of his own ensembles. His pieces can be notoriously difficult and require real immersion in his systems, but it does seem like more musicians are finally beginning to confront his massive body of work on his terms—well beyond the realm of “jazz”—and often with a rigor and focus sometimes missing within the breakneck prolificacy of his groups. Braxton often seems more interested in pushing through to his next project than in refining past work. Thankfully the Dutch guitarist Kobe Van Cauwenberghe, who leads the six-string quartet Zwerm, seems eager to bring out the nuances and complexity of Braxton’s writing. In November of 202o, he dropped a knotty collection of solo Braxton music and now he’s back leading a terrific septet fluent in both improvised and contemporary approaches through four Braxton pieces. Scholar Timo Hoyer wrote detailed liner notes that analyze that pieces and detail the older works enfolded into these performances, which reveal a genuine sharpness and depth. There’s a clear mastery of this often unwieldy material that’s almost giddy in its energy. Each of the four pieces, spread out over two CDs, is packed with detail and quick-blink episodes, delivering such densely crafted journeys that I hope others will follow suit and give Braxton’s pieces the treatment they deserve.

Peter De Backer, het Nieuwsblad (22/06/2022) ***
Lekker foute avant-garde.
Kobe Van Cauwenberghe, lid van gitaarkwartet Zwerm, is gefascineerd door Anthony Braxton. Die Amerikaanse avant-gardist wordt tot de jazz gerekend, maar is eigenlijk een hedendaagse componist die intussen meer dan 700 stukken schreef voor de meest uiteenlopende bezettingen.
Kobe Van Cauwenberghe, lid van gitaarkwartet Zwerm, is gefascineerd door Anthony Braxton. Die Amerikaanse avant-gardist wordt tot de jazz gerekend, maar is eigenlijk een hedendaagse componist die intussen meer dan 700 stukken schreef voor de meest uiteenlopende bezettingen. Van Cauwenberghe is vooral geboeid door Ghost Trance Music, een eigenzinnig concept van Braxton met specifieke richtlijnen voor de muzikanten die het willen toepassen. In vier lange Braxton-composities van meer dan 23 minuten gaat de band (met onder anderen Teun Verbruggen op drums, Steven Delannoye op sax en Niels Van Heertum op eufonium) ermee aan de slag, inclusief citaten uit vroegere Braxton-stukken. Met af en toe een rake solo, zoals die jankende gitaar van Van Cauwenberghe in het eerste stuk. Maar ze kleuren ook lekker buiten de lijntjes, want, zo luidt het advies van Braxton: ‘Als de muziek te correct is uitgevoerd, speelde de band allicht verkeerd.’ Deze band maakt kennelijk boeiende foutjes.

Tor Hammerø, Nettavisen Nyheter. Norway (20/06/2022)
Totalt unikt og veldig spennende
Anthony Braxtons musikk er ikke for pyser. Det bekrefter det flotte belgisk-danske kollektivet Ghost Trance Septet leda av gitaristen Kobe Van Cauwenberghe

Jeg har få problemer med å innrømme at jeg har brukt lang tid på å komme innafor dørstokken til Anthony Braxton sitt univers. Jeg har enkelt og greit ikke helt skjønt hvor han ville med musikken sin. Om jeg har skjønt det nå? Ikke helt sikker, men jeg lar meg uansett fascinere.

På denne dobbelt cd-en spiller septetten fire Braxton-komposisjoner med navn mellom "Composition No. 193" til "Composition No. 358". Siden Braxton har godt over 700 låter i banken, så er det altså nok å velge mellom.

Som alltid er Braxtons musikk et sted mellom de "fleste" grenseland. Er det jazz, er det impro, er det samtidsmusikk? Svaret er som alltid både ja og nei - jeg sliter med og har eller ikke noe behov for å båssette Braxtons unike musikalske visjoner.

Tekstheftet til denne utgivelsen gir oss en god og lang innføring i Braxtons filosofi og måten han ønsker at at andre musikere skal "angripe" hans musikk på. Noe forteller meg at Van Cauwenberghe & Co har kommet godt på innsida av denne tankegangen og at de har makta å sette sitt eget bumerke på musikken.

Van Cauwenberghe spiller ymse gitarer, bassgitar, synther og gir også stemmelyd fra seg og ellers bidrar Frederik Sakham på bass, elbass og stemme, Elisa Medinilla på piano, Niels Van Heertum på eufonium og trompet, Teun Verbruggen på trommer og perkusjon, Anna Jalving på fiolin og Steven Delannoye på tenorsaksofon og bassklarinett til å lage noen lydlandskap få om noen har stifta bekjentskap med tidligere.

Det kommer sjølsagt ikke som noen overraskelse at Braxtons musikk er utfordrende. Det er akkurat det som gjør den så spennende og Kobe Van Cauwenberghe skal ha all ære for å ta dette universet til nye og egne steder.

Om knappe to måneder står sjefen sjøl, Anthony Braxton, på scena under Oslo Jazzfestival. Ganske mye forteller meg at der bør man være.

Eyal Hareuveni, salt peanuts (20/06/2022)
Belgian guitarist Kobe Van Cauwenberghe is fascinated with Anthony Braxton’s music. In 2020 he recorded three compositions of Braxton’s system for a solo guitar album «Ghost Trance Solos» (all that dust, 2020). A year later he performed another of Braxton’s elaborate sonic systems, Echo Echo Mirror House Music. On his new double album with the ghost Trance Septet, he performs one of the compositions from «Ghost Trance Solos», No. 255, plus three others, now arranged for a Belgian-Danish septet, featuring Van Cauwenberghe on guitars, bassist Frederik Sakham, pianist Elisa Medinilla, euphonium and trumpet player Niels Van Heertum, reeds player Steven Delannoye, violinist Anna Jalving and drummer-percussionist Teun Verbruggen. The release of «Plays Anthony Braxton Compositions No. 255, 358, 193 and 264» coincides with Braxton’s 77th birthday and Braxton’s European tour where he would share a stage with Van Cauwenberghe performing the master’s compositions.

German writer and Braxton’s scholar Timo Hoyer, who wrote the book «Anthony Braxton – Creative Music» (Wolke Verlag, 2021), added insightful liner notes that decipher some of the extremely idiosyncratic, uncompromisingly advancing compositional ideas of Braxton. His composition offers an infinitely inventive collage or synthesis of notated, partially fixed, intuitive and improvised components. First of all, Hoyer mentions that Braxton advises all potential performers and interpreters of his compositions, to have fun, to take risks and forget about playing it correctly, and to be creative, make mistakes and be sure to keep their sense of humor.

Braxton’s Ghost Trance Music (GTM) system marks a creative period that began in the mid-nineties and continues to this day. He composed 138 compositions in this system between 1995 to 2006. The eclectic GTM encompasses rituals of the Native Americans, the repetitive continuums of Minimal Music, the rhythmic diversity and trans-tonality of African music, the parallel sound events of street parades, and the intensity and improvisational passion of jazz, and much more. The scores consist of two parts – primary melody with all instruments playing it in unison, and secondary material where Braxton expects a creative, quite liberal handling of the material. Braxton allows the performers to include passages from any of his compositions.

Van Cauwenberghe’s Ghost Trance Septet is well-versed with Braxton’s immense material, follows Braxton’s advice and shines with spirited creativity, an imaginative energy, and an open, daring mind. Braxton has seen Van Cauwenberghe’s Ghost Trance Septet perform his composition No. 255 at the Rainy Days Festival in November 2021 and could hardly contain himself with emotion and excitement. This composition also opens the double album of the Ghost Trance Septet, and the septet performs it with a cerebral but quite sensual and uplifting spirit and references Braxton’s compositions No. 40f and No. 168, once written for a duo session with guitarist James Emery, in such brilliant manner that you can immediately identify with Braxton’s excitement. The following composition No. 358 highlights the emotionality and the rhythmic playfulness of this clever composition. The septet clearly enjoys creating the dissolving forms, mixing melodic veins into atonal chaos, and suddenly introducing quotes of Braxton’s a march-like Composition No. 58 with more references to compositions No. 168 and No. 108d.

The second album begins with Composition No. 193, one of the early GTM compositions. The septet slowly detaches itself from the primary melody and then slows down even further and lets the sonic substance become fleeting and transparent like a fascinating mirage. But then the septet charges with new energy and new nuances of the primary melody, while incorporating elements from compositions No. 48, No. 108c and No. 6f. The last composition No. 264 was not documented before, and the septet performance offers many contrasting timbres (and the choice of instruments is almost always left to the musicians in the GTM) and brilliant rhythmic changes. The septet incorporates elements from compositions No. 108a, Mo. 101, No. 204, No. 40b and No. 40o, and enriches its intricate dynamics with «post-be-bop thematic structure».

Great, inspiring performance.

Peter De Backer, de Standaard (15/06/2022)
Kobe Van Cauwenberghe, lid van gitaarkwartet Zwerm, is gefascineerd door Anthony Braxton. Die Amerikaanse avant-gardist wordt tot de jazz gerekend, maar is eigenlijk een hedendaagse componist die intussen meer dan 700 stukken schreef voor de meest uiteenlopende bezettingen. Van Cauwenberghe is vooral geboeid door Ghost Trance Music, een eigenzinnig concept van Braxton met specifieke richtlijnen voor de muzikanten die het willen toepassen. In vier lange Braxton-composities van meer dan 23 minuten gaat de band (met onder anderen Teun Verbruggen op drums, Steven Delannoye op sax en Niels Van Heertum op eufonium) ermee aan de slag, inclusief citaten uit vroegere Braxton-stukken. Met af en toe een rake solo, zoals die jankende gitaar van Van Cauwenberghe in het eerste stuk. Maar ze kleuren ook lekker buiten de lijntjes, want, zo luidt het advies van Braxton: ‘Als de muziek te correct is uitgevoerd, speelde de band allicht verkeerd.’ Deze band maakt kennelijk boeiende foutjes.

Tim Rutherford-Johnson, The Rambler (06/06/2022)
Beginning with this playlist, compiled deep in locked-down 2020, it has been something of a side project of mine to get to grips with the music of Anthony Braxton. Exactly two years on, I feel like I’m still only scratching the surface. For someone whose education and writing are so steeped in the author-work orthodoxy of Western art music, as mine are, Braxton’s music presents a number of challenges. (Those challenges are part of the reason for my interest, of course.) Among them is Braxton’s central role as performer and director of his own music. Braxton’s reputation is founded first on his saxophone and clarinet playing (he is still – as on the cover of Timo Hoyer’s recently published comprehensive overview – often pictured with one instrument or another to hand), and much of his discography features him as a performer. Often this has been forced by necessity: Braxton’s marginalisation by the art music establishment for much of his life required him to act as his own champion and impresario. For years, if he didn’t play his music, few others would. Nevertheless, the line between his different roles as composer and bandleader is a blurred one. This distinction is, to be sure, founded in a racially coded division between jazz and classical music, and in the different values the two respective genres (and the wider culture industry around them) place on writing and performing. But it does still heighten interest in recordings of Braxton’s music on which the composer himself is not present.

The Belgian guitarist Kobe Van Cauwenberghe has also been on a mission to explore Braxton’s music, although far more comprehensively and to much greater effect than I. In November 2020 he released an acclaimed solo album of three compositions in Braxton’s Ghost Trance Music (GTM) style (numbers 255, 284 and 358) on All That Dust. And a year later he brought a septet to Luxembourg’s Rainy Days festival to play Composition 255. A studio recording of this work, plus three other recordings with the same septet (Compositions 193, 264 and 358) make up this superb double LP. Braxton was in the audience in Luxembourg and, according to Hoyer’s somewhat effusive sleevenotes, ‘could hardly contain himself with emotion and excitement. Understandably so. I dare say he had never experienced his GTM concept from the listener’s perspective as varied, elaborate and fluid as on that day.’ My own view is that Van Cauwenberghe and his septet have redefined the landscape of Braxton recordings.

Ghost Trance Music is one of numerous compositional methods or styles Braxton has developed over the years, each of which adds new possibilities to his music while still accommodating those that have gone before (for a primer, see Seth Colter Walls’ introduction to Braxton’s compositional systems; for a deeper dive, see this article by Erica Dicker). Rather than moving episodically from one stylistic phase to another, Braxton’s career can be viewed as a tree or, better, as mycelium – a continually branching-converging network of threads that equally pushes forward and feeds back. Each compositional system is both spore, vessel and boring machine, offering ways of generating patches of this network, transiting through it, or cutting new paths across it. The GTM system – grounded in the Ghost Dance rituals by which the surviving fragments of decimated Native American populations pooled their knowledge and culture in the late nineteenth century in the face of colonial destruction – is one of the richest of these, and is the main focus of Van Cauwenberghe’s research. It is based around a form of endless melody, initially imagined in a steady, walking bass-type rhythm but later ornamented with complex rhythmic ‘breaks’ (irrational subdivisions of the beat). In Dicker’s analysis, this melody serves as a kind of musical highway, or ‘meta-road’, off which various diversions, off-ramps or intersections may be indicated, which the performer(s) may choose to follow (or not) according to Braxton’s suggestions. The system is designed, says Dricker, ‘to put the player in the driver’s seat, drawing his or her intentions into the navigation of the performance, determining the structure of the performance itself’.

Some of the diversions off the meta-road involve reference to secondary materials written on loose-leaf pages of score (a model of strict core and looser supplements somewhat like Ferneyhough’s Cassandra’s Dream Song, for example, although with a much wider range of freedoms and possibilities). Others involve the ‘language music’ that is one of Braxton’s first compositional systems – a set of twelve performance directives (trill every note, play legato melodies, play accented sustained notes, etc) indicated by graphic symbols. Still others involve tertiary or ‘outside’ materials, selected (prior to performance) from anywhere else in Braxton’s oeuvre. This may include primary melodies or secondary materials from any other GTM composition, or it might include material from any part of Braxton’s hundreds of other compositions. (The last section of Braxton’s tentet recording of Composition 286, from 2001, for example, features material from Composition 23A, first recorded on the seminal New York, Fall 1974 album.) As Dricker explains, over the eleven years that Braxton employed his GTM approach (between 1995 and 2006), he developed it in several ways, emphasising or de-emphasising different aspects, adding or substracting elements but always, in Braxton’s characteristic manner, with a view to increasing the music’s plurality and heterogeneity.

The collage approach – fundamental, I would say, to Braxton’s aesthetic – was developed in Braxton’s work with small ensembles, most notably his legendary quartet of the 80s and early 90s with Marilyn Crispell, Mark Dresser and Gerry Hemingway. It is documented in Graham Lock’s essential book, and on ferocious albums such as this. The fluidity of this music can be utterly thrilling, but if you are not familiar with at least some of Braxton’s other music, it can be hard to identify where the different collaged elements begin and end, and thus perceive the musical space in all its dimensions. In the meta-road approach of GTM, however, Braxton finds a sweet spot between freedom and control, between an easily identifiable foundation and easily identifiable diversion, without limiting the range or variety of those diversions (some of which are identified in Hoyer’s sleevenotes).

The four compositions on this album cover all four variations of the GTM style, from the simpler first phase of Composition 193, with its greater emphasis on the primary melody, no subdivisions of its regular pulse, and an emphasis on specified pitches in its secondary material (leading to a greater control of pitch overall); to the fourth, ‘accelerator class’, in which the primary melody beats are almost all subdivided or obscured (although still present on an intermediate level), and in which the melody moves through accelerating and decelerating waves; there are also fewer deviations from the primary melody indicated, although the melody itself is provided with numerous layers of colour, articulation and graphical elements that ensure that it is always different. Three, numbers 193, 255 and 358, have been recorded before – numbers 255 and 358 by Van Cauwenberghe himself on his solo recording. Number 264 appears to be given its first recording here.

In general, the septet’s playing is smoother than that of Braxton’s own groups: the staccato punch of the primary melody is less pronounced (it thus appears more as a continuous stream, albeit one whose contours are thoroughly unpredictable); the instrumental timbres are more blended (even though, paradoxically, they are often more diverse – compare Braxton’s sax duo version of 255 with Chris Jonas on GTM (Outpost) 2003). The septet’s renditions are also much more compact than Braxton’s, which can often – for my money – shade into indulgence. Whereas Braxton and his groups will often extend a composition to an hour or more, Van Cauwenberghe’s renditions (both in the septet and solo) all hover around the 20-minute mark.

None of this to say that these are compromised or limited performances. The septet’s playing – particularly its flexibility of idiom, from avant-garde to blues to hillbilly – equals or even exceeds anything I’ve heard in Braxton’s recordings (I’ve hardly heard them all, but for me Braxton ploughs more consistently a free jazz/modern compositional idiom than his music necessarily demands). A lot of that emerges simply from instrumental combinations within the group: more violin is going to sound more country, more drums and bass is going to sound more blues/funk. But Van Cauwenberghe’s players lean into those identities with a range of idiomatic rhythmic and articulatory nuances. Van Cauwenberghe repeats one of the tricks from his solo record by bringing in the funkily slinky Composition 40f in the last third of 255, but in the group setting it grooves that much harder; it has a counterpart in the post-bop central section of 264, in which Verbruggen, Medinilla and Sakham most clearly coalesce as a distinct rhythm section (only to tease themselves apart again within a minute or two).

The polystylism of some of the secondary and tertiary breakdowns – when the individual identities of the players come to the fore – are more Ives than Ives: melting and melding more than clashing. They are deliciously fluid, rippled through with energies of seven players continuously listening and adjusting to each other. There is the same unstoppable magmatic flow that is captured on the classic quartet recordings (Verbruggen’s skittering drums and Medinilla’s fistfuls of keys do a lot of work in capturing that mood), but there is also introspection, stillness, melancholy even, as in the slow breakdown into the central section of 193 or the Sciarrino-like glitter of 358. Newcomers to Braxton’s work may still wish to start with those quartet recordings, but for the sound of Braxton without himself at the helm, they will want to come here very soon after.

Mike Borella, Avant Music News (04/06/2022)
Anthony Braxton’s Ghost Trance Music (GTM) is a framework for composition, improvisation, and collaboration. It is based around repeating pulse-like melodies that can be of any duration. Inspired by Native American dance, Braxton evolved the framework over the course of a decade in over 100 numbered pieces. Like his other musical systems, GTM pieces are meta-compositions, in that they can be adapted to virtually any instrumentation, ensemble size, or tempo. Further, there are four distinct GTM species of increasing complexity in terms of notation and musical output.

The above is just a layperson’s attempt at describing GTM. A more comprehensive description can be found in Erica Dicker’s excellent GTM article from Sound American 16.

In any event, guitarist Kobe Van Cauwenberghe has been fascinated by GTM for the better part of two decades. Last year, he put together an ensemble of like-minded musicians to record and then perform GTM pieces. The result is this double album with four tracks, each around 24 minutes, and exploring each of Braxton’s GTM species. Instrumentation includes electric and acoustic guitar, electric and acoustic bass, synths, voices, piano, euphonium, trumpet, tenor sax, bass clarinet, violin, drums, and percussion.

Composition 255 begins with the “classic” GTM sound – a jagged circling melody with structured tempo changes performed by the entire ensemble. Over time, instruments fade in and out while occasional solos and accentuations are layered in. Certain passages downplay the melodic structure, with foreground instruments providing improvised lines, some employing extended techniques. At the midway point, Van Cauwenberghe breaks out on the electric guitar for a wailing “solo” with accompaniment by the horns. The sheer complexity of the piece is highlighted at this point, with multiple instruments heading in different directions while remaining loyal to the guiding foundation. Drones, quieter movements, and then a vocally-oriented burst round out the piece.

Composition 358 is of the fourth species and hides the melodic pulses under a more chaotic but structured set of interlocking themes. Not unlike some of Braxton’s more recent efforts, the overall sound resembles two or three pieces of music being played independently and yet somehow fitting together. The looseness of this track, at least when compared to its predecessor, is notable in how it varies between labyrinthine intricacy and relative sparseness. Indeed, some passages appear almost freely improvised at certain moments.

Composition 193 is one of the earliest GTM pieces, and thus employs a prominent pulse melody supported by at least two instruments at most points. The melody dances about playfully and at a rapid tempo while the performers take turns layering their own brief melodies, motifs, and bursts atop the structure. Sax, violin, and piano, in particular, add colors to the piece. The baton-passing of the pulse melody is relatively easy to follow, for example from guitar to sax and bass, to guitar and bass, and so on. Nonetheless, a few sections relinquish this structure for a more complex variation thereof or extemporaneous playing.

Composition 264 rounds things out with a lengthy pulse pattern. It is probably the most involved of the four, exhibiting multiple tempo changes throughout its cycle. After a few minutes, it morphs into an interlude with spiky blasts from various instruments. Van Cauwenberghe provides a notably compelling solo with plenty of bent notes that fit the strange forms underlying the track. A reprise of the pulse then emerges with the instruments jumping in and out of the pattern. An open-ended passage serves as a finale to the album.

When recordings of GTM first became available, I found them to be somewhat less interesting than Braxton’s earlier works. As a result, I did not pay as much attention to the evolution of this system as I should have. Thankfully, Van Cauwenberghe and crew have provided a truly inspired reading of GTM material that has rekindled my awareness of this phase of Braxton’s works. Ghost Trance Septet plays Anthony Braxton is one of the best interpretations of Braxton’s music yet by an ensemble not including Braxton himself. Very well done.

Ben Taffijn, Nieuwe Noten (02/06/2022)
Anthony Braxton wordt gelukkig steeds vaker ook als componist van hedendaagse muziek gezien en niet louter als saxofonist, actief binnen de vrije improvisatie en de avant-garde jazz. Iets dat hij vanzelfsprekend ook is. Een musicus die deze composities een warm hard toedraagt is gitarist Kobe Van Cauwenberghe. Eerder bracht hij bij All That Dust reeds ‘Ghost Trance Solos’ uit en nu ligt er het bij El Negocito verschenen dubbel album ‘Kobe Van Cauwenberghe’s Ghost Trance Septet Plays Anthony Braxton’, waarop we de composities nr. 193, 255, 264 en 358 horen, slechts vier van de ruim zevenhonderd die Braxton tot nu toe schreef.

Honderdachtendertig daarvan vallen onder de Ghost Trance Music, composities die Braxton schreef tussen 1995 en 2006 en waar ook deze vier onder vallen. Koos Van Cauwenberghe op zijn vorige album voor solostukken, op dit album werkt hij met een septet, met naast Van Cauwenberghe zelf, die we horen op diverse gitaren, basgitaar, synthesizer en vocalen, Frederik Sakham op contrabas en vocalen, Elisa Medinilla op piano, Niels Van Heertum op euphonium en trompet, Teun Verbruggen op drums en percussie, Anna Jalving op viool en Steven Delannoye op tenorsax en basklarinet. Braxton spelen, Van Cauwenberghe haalt in het Cd boekje de instructies van Braxton nog maar eens aan: “a. Have fun with this material and don’t get hung up with any one area. b. Don’t misuse this material to have only ‘correct’ performances without spirit or risk. […] If the music is played too correctly it was probably played wrong. c. Each performance must have something unique. […] If the instrumentalist doesn’t make a mistake with my materials, I say ‘Why!?’ NO mistake — NO work!’ If a given structure concept has been understood (on whatever level) then connect it to something else. Try something different — be creative (that’s all I’m writing). […] and be sure to keep your sense of humor”.

De composities kennen allemaal een zelfde soort structuur. Het eerste deel bestaat uit een nagenoeg unisono gespeelde melodie. Die kan urenlang aangehouden worden, maar ook esnige minuten, dat is aan het ensemble. Wat volgt zijn een soort van afgeleide melodieën van die hoofd melodie. In het wat en hoe geeft Braxton de uitvoerders bijzonder veel ruimte, geen twee uitvoeringen van een compositie klinken dan ook hetzelfde. Het tweede deel van een compositie, bijvoorbeeld nr. 255, waar het album mee opent, klinkt dan ook regelmatig veel vrijer dan het eerste deel, hier horen we duidelijk de improvisatie achtergrond van Braxton in terug, al zijn er ook zeker sterk ritmische en melodieuze fragmenten te bespeuren. Mooi gitaarspel ook, zo ongeveer halverwege dit stuk. In het aanvankelijk veel rustiger nr. 358, tegen het einde loopt de spanning behoorlijk op, is het hierboven genoemde onderscheid minder goed te maken, hier wisselen melodie en abstractie elkaar continu af. Aan het ritmische patroon aan het begin van nr. 193 is goed te horen dat Braxton zijn inspiratie voor deze muziek voor een deel haalt uit de straatparades, een belangrijke oervorm van de jazz. En mooi zoals dit motief iets verderop letterlijk uitdooft in de abstractie. Maar er blijft ruimte voor het ritme in dit stuk, steeds in boeiende afwisseling met die abstractie. In nr. 264 valt het slepende ritme op en als verderop het tempo nog verder naar beneden gaat, heeft de muziek veel weg van een klanksculptuur.

Sammy Stein, The Free Jazz Collective (23/05/2022)
Ghent-based el Negocito records will release Kobe Van Cauwenberghe's Ghost Trance Septet plays Anthony Braxton on June 2, combined with a performance at the Contemporary Arts Museum of S.M.A.K. In Ghent, showcasing the results of Kobe Van Cauwenberghe's research on Anthony Braxton and his spectacular Ghost Trance Music.

Anthony Braxton is one of the most innovative composers, musicians, and music theorists. His work has been featured on around 60 albums by other musicians, and his number of compositions is over 700. Belgian guitarist Kobe Van Cauwenberghe (Zwerm, Ictus Ensemble, Nadar Ensemble) recognised the uniqueness of Braxton's Ghost Trance Music systems and made it a mission to come to a deeper understanding of it and its implications for the interpreter. After his acclaimed solo album (Ghost Trance Solos), Van Cauwenberghe invited a group of musicians to take a collective deep dive into Braxton's musical wonderland of the Ghost Trance Musics and explore its unique communal aspects. In the summer of 2021, this Ghost Trance Septet recorded four GTM-compositions, covering the entire spectrum of the four different' species' of the G.T.M. system. The result is this present double CD, which will be followed by a double vinyl issue later in the year.

Anthony Braxton reacted to the Ghost Trance Septet's performance at the Rainy Days Festival in Luxemburg in November 2021 with emotion, and this ensemble comes with the full approval of the grandmaster himself

On June 5, Braxton's Birthday, there will be a 2nd concert at the Singel in Antwerp, followed by a performance by Braxton himself. Other activities are planned, including an expo and lectures.

With Braxton playing fewer concerts these days, this is a rare opportunity to see the grandmaster perform. Braxton has over 500 compositions to his name and has been a visionary pioneer of music, regularly reinventing himself. During the 1970s, Braxton considered creating streamed (or beamed) live performances alongside 100 orchestras in 4 different cities and wanted to mark the year 2000 by completing the music for multiple orchestras. The programme in the performances will feature his compositions from the 'Creative Orchestra' albums, where, in an 'Ellington meets Stockhuasen' manner, Braxton blends big band with contemporary classical ensemble. There will also be some pieces from the more recent 'Ghost Trance Music,' which balances music that is both notated and allows for improvisation. Braxton will perform himself with his new Saxophone Quartet, featuring James Fei (Roscoe Mitchell, Alvin Lucier), Chris Jonas ( Cecil Taylor, William Parker, Del Sol String Quartet), Ingrid Laubrock(F-IRE Collective, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Polar Bear) and Andre Vida (Brandon Evans, Sonny Simmons)

The opening track, 'Composition 255,' is a mesmerizing stream of music that begins with the ensemble delivering a punctuated stream of chords in union before, gradually, the percussion first; then the other instruments begin to shear off from the central theme, creating diverse and intricate side roads of improvised sounds. Follow any of these, and you end up eventually at a crossroads where the ensemble comes together, crosses, and then veers away on different pathways. Eerie vocalisation, underpinned by piano, then brass blats and percussive rhythms thundered out underneath. The subtle blueseyness of the central section of the number with the unsettling bass clarinet just audible beneath the intricate top lines reflects jazz roots, while the explosive, dissonant guitar reminds the listener that this is improvised jazz music in essence. The trance element comes from the palpitation of the rhythms and the endless stream of musical consciousness, which creates a link between the musicians, balancing the directed with the free. The piano rises to the fore playing chordal sequences, over which the rest add their responses - again, that link between the set and the unsettling—an incredibly diverse and creative opening sequence of music.

The following track,'Composition 358,' opens with the ensemble playing separate yet connected lines, each different yet creating a link to the rest, before snatches of melody rise like a nest of entwined cobras, entwining around the centrality of the number while maintaining their individuality. The glissandos, the responses, the interaction, the brief solos, the quiet moments, and the explosive end section before the fading all work to create another mesmeric number.

The next track, 'Composition 193,' continues the theme of collective creativity, the ensemble demonstrating how aggregation can be coupled with fractions of dissonance and subtle connectivity.

After the three-minute mark, the lines set by the piano are reflected and developed by the ensemble with the percussion adding rhythmic patterns that both fill space and create interesting modulations of the tempo. A violin rises in solo before playing spiccato, reflecting the percussive patterns. The bass weaves complex lines underneath. The ensemble then works together to create many hues, painting a colourful ribbon of sound that the listener can follow, leading to a tricky, intricate rhythmic middle section into which they are immersed. The sound curve becomes more complex before it simplifies, allowing individual instruments to be heard. The finish feels orchestral and fulsome.

The final track, 'Composition 264,' brings more of the same - a seemingly bottomless pool of sounds, from which individual instruments rise to the surface before diving back to the depths of sound created by the ensemble. This music exemplifies the ensemble style of blended notated and improvised sound and is a delight to both those with an ear for classical and those preferring a freer form of playing.

Braxton proves that comparisons to other composers are pointless, and Braxton is a rare thing nowadays - a composer whose work is unique. The recording feels like an immersion; the music washes over the listener in waves, cleansing and pure. It is a stream of consciousness that emanates from the musicians, serving as a guide between that which is known and the unknown. Clear guidance to form is tempered beautifully with an allowance for freedom that this kind of music gives. There is a sense of connection to the past, a sense of being very much in the present and with the future. Listening to this music is an experience, not an act, and Braxton creates a sense of endless potential.

Lynn René Bayley, The Art Music Lounge, an Online Journal of Jazz and Classical Music (07/05/2022)
It has taken me more than 40 years to “get” Anthony Braxton’s music. When I first heard it in the 1970s, I found it t be texturally thick and repetitive, complex but unswinging. Those adjectives still apply, but over the years I have learned to be more patient when listening to and assessing music that lies outside of both the classical and jazz spectrums, and now I get it.

Braxton’s music is a complex blueprint of sound using small but very complex musical cells in a repeated fashion, over which the performers are supposed to slowly deconstruct it, find the cell or cells that appeal to them, and then put it back together using improvisation—and I mean full improvisation, which in turn means recomposing the music however they wish to. It’s very cerebral music, then, and isn’t mean to swing, but it is meant to played with in an amusing way despite its very serious complexity.

Braxton himself has written these instructions for musicians who wish to play his material (taken from the liner notes of this CD):
“a. Have fun with this material and don’t get hung up with any one area/
b. Don’t misuse this material to have only ‘correct’ performances without spirit or risk. […] If the music is played too correctly, it was probably played wrong.
c. Each performance must have something unique. […] If the instrumentalist doesn’t make a mistake with my materials, I say, ‘Why!?’ NO mistake — NO work!’ If a given structure concept has been understood (on whatever level) then connect it to something else. Try something different — be creative (that’s all I’m writing).
[…] and be sure to keep your sense of humor.”

So, with all that in mind, I decided to review this CD, even though the music occupies a no-man’s-land between classical and jazz. This two-CD set includes four later, very complex pieces by Braxton, played by Belgian guitarist Kobe Van Cauwenherghe and his Ghost Trance Septet.

One thing you will notice about Braxton’s music is that it is, for the most part, very quiet. His pieces do not encourage loud, violent performances; nor are his own performances of his music loud or disruptive. Within his complex musical cells, he uses a great deal of polyphony as well as dissonance; even if a group had decided to play his works in a tight, linear fashion—which clearly wouldn’t work very well—it would be extremely difficult to do so, and if you think that what you hear in this recording sounds sloppy and disorganized, such as the opening sections of Composition 358, I can assure you that there isn’t a classical group in the world who could even play it. It’s simply beyond their realm of musical education or experience.

Thus giving a technical description of what one hears is not only difficult but irrelevant. Suffice it to say that, even with humor and a lot of imagination, his music sounds chaotic because it is meant to sound chaotic. It is a Zen koan, meant to disrupt one’s normal way of thinking about music to produce something entirely different.

Once past the opening statements in each piece (the one in the opening work, Composition 255, lasts the longest, about three minutes), the Ghost Trance Quintet meanders—purposely—to create musical patterns that are slower and less complex than the original, but still related to it. What impressed and intrigued me most about this recording was the fact that the Septet managed to maintain some sort of forward momentum even while playing the must complex pieces, and at the same time never devolved into chaotic note-splattering. I’ve said many times that free jazz musicians who just splatter notes up against the wall to see what sticks are not complete musicians, because all music, no matter how complex and far-out, has to have some sort of form. The Ghost Trance Septet manages to give a certain amount of coherence to what they’re playing, and I respect that. Even in those moments that sound like free-for-alls, i.e. at the 11-minute mark on Composition 358, the rhythmically and harmonically apposite figures they are all playing somehow, mysteriously, come together.

But clearly this is not music for the masses; in fact, I’m sure that only one out of a thousand listeners (at best) will “get” these pieces. Aside from the fact that this music is intended as a basis for improvisation, they cannot be called “jazz” at all. They are closer related to the music of Harry Partch than to anyone in the jazz field, and that even includes Ivo Perelman, Simon Nabatov or Henry Threadgill, whose music is equally complex but contains more basic jazz feeling. The only other jazz group whose work comes close to what Braxton has done is the Art Ensemble of Chicago, another highly misunderstood group of musicians. In a way, Braxton’s works also have overtones in them related to the artwork of Wassily Kandinsky, the synethesiast who “saw” music as colors and shapes and tried to capture that feeling in paintings…yet the music itself, in my opinion, is closer in form to the paintings of Paul Klee. This is particularly evident in Composition 193, which uses (for Braxton) an unusually rhythmic figure to propel the surprisingly simple cells used as a theme, but this is not a jazz rhythm. It is much closer to the kind of rhythms used by Stravinsky in Le Sacre du Printemps.

Once past the repetitive (sometimes overly-repetitive) opening sections of each work, one hears little elements of improvised “comments,” you might call them, being introduced either against the grain of the theme statement or as an adjunct to it, an overlay on it, and this, in turn, leads to the loosening of the initial rhythm/tempo as well as a complete deconstruction of the theme until nothing is left but—and this seems particularly apt considering the group’s name—“ghostly” traces of the original music. Composition 193 has the greatest contrast, as the septet completely dissolves not only the strong ostinato beat of the opening theme but also its high-pressured tempo. The improvised section, dominated by Anna Jalving’s violin and Niels Van Heertum on the euphonium, is almost an entirely different work.

I also give a lot of credit to Van Cauwenherghe for resisting the temptation to use his electric guitar in a rock-music fashion. This is a bad lapse in taste that too many jazz guitarists fall into, probably because they all grew up with rock music and thus think it fits into everything…but as I’ve said many times, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. If your “rock” guitar style is closely related to R&B, that’s fine, because R&B was one of the outgrowths of swing in the 1940s, but if it sounds like heavy metal guitar, you’re on the wrong track for jazz. Van Cauwenherghe comes a bit close to the latter style in one brief solo here, but for the most part he stays away from it, which was the right decision. Even more surprisingly, towards the end of this track the septet actually swings!

The opening theme of Composition 264 is the most complex rhythmically of the four presented here, with both meter and tempo that keeps shifting underneath the musicians’ feet, but the Ghost Trance Septet has the full measure of this complicated music. Van Cauwenherghe’s playing on this track is some of his most rhythmic, and for the most part the group swings more consistently than on the others.

In addition to the selections on this double-CD issue, I should also like to mention that the Ghost Trance Septet has a video on YouTube of Braxton’s Composition 348 (Accelerator), with Braxton himself playing the reed instruments, that lasts over an hour. This is clearly a talented and very adventurous group, and their interpretations of Braxton’s material are something special.






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