Kobe Van Cauwenberghe’s Ghost Trance Septet

August 8, 2022

Plays Anthony Braxton
elNegocito eNR 105

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.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Disc 1: 1. Composition 255 2. Composition 358 Disc 3: 1. Composition 193 4. Composition 264

Personnel: Niels Van Heertum (euphonium, trumpet); Steven Delannoye (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet); Elisa Medinilla (piano); Anna Jalving (violin); Kobe Van Cauwenberghe (electric, nylon string guitars, electric bass, synths, voice); Frederik Sakham (bass, electric bass, voice); Teun Verbruggen (drums, percussion)