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Anthony Braxton's Ghost Trance Festival
Braxton never thinks small. He realized long ago that if music ("jazz") is to retain its vitality and forward motion, it must be subjected to investigations of the ambitious kind. Arguably the most controversial character to come out of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in the late '60s, Anthony Braxton has never confined his music to the generally accepted notions of genre, song form -- or even space/time.

Each of the 400 or so compositions in his oeuvre (150 albums and counting) has been structured using a vast vocabulary of interconnected and interchangeable building blocks. He calls this his "composite logic system." As fantastic as it sounds, the "transtemporal ritual environment" of Braxton's music allows for all of his works (or any components thereof) to be performed simultaneously by single musicians or multiple groups of players -- and still sound musical on unimaginable levels. Many fans who saw the '93 Quartet tour (see Quartet (Santa Cruz) 1993) have remarked how the experience elevated their hearing somehow.

Ghost Trance is one more step toward Braxton's ideal of having his music performed all over the planet, as ritual Earth music. He says it's "a form of meditation. ... It opens up the possibility of compositions that last four or five days ... that go beyond time parameters and become a state of being." Think of the trance traditions of West Africa, Persia, Bali, Morocco. Though the rites of Ghost Trance will have to stay within the time frame of Yoshi's hourlong sets, transcendence is not out of the question.

-- Sam Prestianni

Anthony Braxton's Ghost Trance Festival appears Wednesday, Aug. 20, through Sunday, Aug. 24, for two sets at 8 and 10 p.m., at Yoshi's (in Jack London Square, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakland). Tickets are $18 Wednesday and Thursday, $20 on the weekend; call (510) 238-9200.

 
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