September 2007


Anthony Braxton and The AIMToronto Orchestra
at the Guelph Jazz Festival
September 7, 2007 River Run Centre Guelph
Flawless Movements
by Tom Sekowski with photo by Roger Humbert
Formed back in 2004, AIMToronto (Association of Improvising Musicians of Toronto) had a hefty goal at revitalizing the free music scene in the city where it seemed most improvised music went deep underground. For their first gig with master composer/saxophonist Anthony Braxton, the AIMToronto Orchestra was thoroughly coached by the man at the helm of Friday’s concert. I can’t remember last time Braxton played a show in the Toronto area, so in that respect, this was a special concert.
Anthony Braxton conducting the AIMToronto Orchestra
Right off the bat you could tell the eighteen piece orchestra was tightly under the spell of their leader. Braxton would wave his hands, motion, grin, point, hold up signs and directions to the whole piece. The movement itself was flawless, though that doesn’t mean it was smooth. Music was interspersed with sharp edges and broken off, rapidly dying parts disappeared into never, neverland, only to be re-born a few minutes later.

Musicians in the orchestra were the best of the best that Toronto has to offer in terms of improvised music. Some of the individuals that made impact on my ears were Nicole Rampersaud with excruciatingly vivid trumpet playing, Scott Thompson who delivered a ton of bellowing trombone motifs and the duelling, rapidly changing bass playing of Victor Bateman and Rob Clutton. Piano work by Tania Gill was sporadic, broken-off and acted as a fine board for some of the other players to work against. I wouldn’t say the work was full of conflict but there was something in the air that made it sound that an underlying layer of tension remained from beginning of the set to its ending 70 minutes down the line.

No doubt, the concert’s shining star was vocalist Christine Duncan. Shamelessly, she’d announce a quick phrase during the pauses in the music. Funny thing is, all of the text was hilarious and much of it was without any greater sense.

As a conductor, Braxton didn’t fail for a split second. He kept a tight ship rolling along. With an ideal mixture of sharp, tightly controlled hand movements and intonations of his body, Braxton kept a close eye on his students for the night. As any bunch of good music students would, this bunch listened and watched the master’s directions with baited breath. When viewed under a microscope, the music as seen like a slew of broken up, little pieces wouldn’t necessarily have to make sense, but taken as a whole, made all the sense in an imperfect world. Bravo Mr. Braxton for that seamless piece!

We welcome your comments and feedback
Tom Sekowski
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