Anthony Braxton, Vienna Porgy & Bess, 15 February 2007

Had one of the most inspiring evenings of live music of my entire life last night – a performance by Anthony Braxton and his group at Porgy & Bess. Superlatives fail me on this occasion. We were seated right in front of the stage, just a few feet away from Braxton. The sextet played two hour-long sets (the passing of the hour being noted by an hourglass) of music filled with daunting complexity and joyous freedom. Braxton communicated with the rest of the group in fascinating ways, telling them (I’m guessing) which numbered sections to play by holding his fingers up, and writing numbers and symbols on a small whiteboard which he held up for them to see. The group – double bass, percussion, violin, tuba and trumpet – were utterly responsive and intuitive. And when Braxton reached for his saxes and unleashed one of his fearsome solos, you simply never wanted it to end.

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