In just four evening rehearsals, leading jazz composer Anthony Braxton welded 19 volunteer musicians into the highly disciplined D.C. Jazz Orchestra. The payoff came Saturday night at the Lansburgh Cultural Center, when Braxton conducted his ad hoc big band successfully through five of his rich, demanding compositions. The disappointingly small audience was treated to Braxton's pioneering musical ideas fleshed out to orchestral proportions. The 19 local musicians not only quickly absorbed Braxton's methodology (a combination of notation, improvisation and "musical shapes"), but had also acquired a remarkable rapport under Braxton's strict direction.
The opening piece, "Language Improvisation," opened with a long, sustained A chord with tonal colors drifting in and out. With various hand signals, Braxton cued half-step modulations, different musical treatments (e.g., trills, stutters, legato passages) and unplanned solos. The second piece, "Opus 100," featured woodwinds playing fast, high flurries of notes against slow, low brass passages punctuated by unison pauses. "Composition 94" used line graphs for the score, with the dynamics for each phrase rising and falling with a graph line. "Composition 93" built a compelling big band swing rhythm underneath Braxton's different musical languages. District Curators and WPFW plan to repeat this workshop with a different jazz composer/conductor next fall.