Reviews that mention Anthony Braxton

November 26, 2017

Convergences, Divergences & Affinities: Further Beyond Jazz, the Second Wave of English Free Improvisation, 1973-9

By Trevor Barre
Compass Publishing

Forced to exist in a musical universe that values popularity and money over other qualities, Free Music and one particular sub set, British Improvisation, has always inhabited a unique, almost heroic area. It’s unique because most of its major stylists are instantly identifiable once they start playing; it’s heroic because a raft of UK musicians continues to inhabit the field despite mass indifference. Like Theodore H. White writing in his multi-volume The Making of the President series on American politics, Trevor Barre brings the same attention to detail as well as examining overriding trends in order to perfectly situate the musical, societal and sociological circumstances that contributed to the birth and dissemination of this music. MORE

April 12, 2016

Anthony Braxton & Derek Bailey

First Duo Concert
Emanem 5038

Brötzmann/Van Hove Bennink

1971

Corbett vs Dempsey CD 020

Willem Breuker Kollektief

Angoulême 18 Mail 1980

Fou Records FR-CD 9&10

Free Jazz Group Wiesbaden

Frictions/Frictions Now

NoBusiness Records NBCD 79

Something In The Air: Preserving Rediscovered Free Music Classics

By Ken Waxman

Fully grasping the intricacies of musical history often depends on the availability of recorded documents. That’s why many musical histories are re-evaluated once hitherto little known performances become accessible. This is especially crucial when it comes to completely or mostly improvised sounds. Reissued and/or rediscovered sessions, which preserve ephemeral moments, confirm the music’s wide dissemination. More importantly they add the equivalent of additional sentences that provide a fuller understanding of the free music story. MORE

March 22, 2016

Microgroove: Forays into Other Music

John Corbett
Duke University Press

By Ken Waxman

Searching for the equivalent of a travel guide to the often uncharted territories of turn-of-the-century, so-called other music should lead to this volume. A collection of essays, interviews and reviews written between 1990 and 2014, Microgroove outlines the achievements of many of the progenitors and disseminators of non-mainstream music during that epoch. A Chicago-based music writer, concert promoter, art curator and record producer, John Corbett has been intimately involved with variants of what he describes as “music that demands a different mode of listening” for decades. Like an embedded anthropologist studying the culture of particular tribes Corbett is also able to place these sonic advances in a global context. MORE

January 6, 2016

On The Cover

Rova: Still Creative After All These Years
By Ken Waxman

Someone once described Rova as the Grateful Dead of Jazz. A comparison to the Rolling Stones would be more accurate. For more than 38 years, with only one change in personnel 27 years ago, the Bay area-based saxophone quartet has created high quality music. However unlike the venerable British rockers whose music hasn’t been cutting edge for decades, Rova continues to evolve and experiment.

Case in point: this month’s series of NYC concerts. From the 19th to the 24th, the band’s residency at The Stone offers a retrospective of classic Rova material as well as new works. Some sets will feature Rova and guest musicians, some of whom have never played with the band before. Before that, on January 17th at Le Poisson Rouge, an expanded Rove ensemble will perform Electric Ascension, a 21st Century re-imagining of John Coltrane’s classic work. Concurrently, RogueArt will release Channeling Coltrane, containing a live performance of Electric Ascension from the 2012 Guelph Jazz Festival on DVD and Blue-ray; a CD of the music itself; plus Cleaning the Mirror, a documentary that mixes the story of Rova’s Ascension adaptation with a history of the creation of Coltrane’s seminal session. MORE

November 16, 2015

In Print

Jazz Debates/Jazz Debatten /Wolfram Knauer (editor)
Darmstadt Studies in Jazz Research

By Ken Waxman

An ongoing conference that has taken place every second year since 1989, the Darmstadt (Germany) Jazz Forum gathers scholars from Europe and the US to discuss aspects of the current jazz scene. Jazz Debates/Jazz Debatten gathers 10 talks in English and German from the most recent (2013) conference, where the participants deal with the place of jazz in musical culture, touching on aspects of race, nationality, gender, acceptance and even definitions of the word itself.

The English abstracts of the German language debates seem parochial to the international reader since they deal with perceptions of jazz and in-fighting among critics and gate keepers in post-war and present-day Germany. More substantive arguments are advanced in the English talks, but not always. Peter Elsdon’s “The Potential of the Jazz Record”, for instance, is an essay on Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert record and its reputation as prototypical new age music and its use for relaxation and in retirement residences. MORE

June 11, 2015

Anthony Braxton

Trio and Duet
Sackville (Delmark) SK3007

Parker/Dunmall/Bianco

Extremes

Red Toucan RT 9349

Evan Parker ElectroAcoustic Septet

Seven

Victo 127

Harris Eisenstadt

Golden State II

Songlines SGL 1610-2

EarNear

EarNear

TourdeBras TDB90012 CD

Something In The Air: Canadian Exposure for Out-of-the-Country Out-of-the-Ordinary Improvisers

By Ken Waxman

Just as international improvisers sometimes find a more welcoming atmosphere for their sound experiments in Canada than at home, so too have Canadian record labels become a vehicle to release notable free music sessions. Attesting to this openness, two of the most recent discs by British saxophone master Evan Parker are on Canadian imprints. But each arrived by a different route. One of the triumphs of 2014’s Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville in Quebec, this performance of Seven by Parker’s ElectroAcoustic Septet (Victo 127) are available on Victo, FIMAV’s affiliated imprint. Consisting of one massive and one shorter instant composition, Seven literally delineates the electro-acoustic divide. Trumpeter Peter Evans, reedist Ned Rothenberg, cellist Okkyung Lee and Parker make up the acoustic side, while varied laptop processes are operated by Ikue Mori and Sam Pluta, with George Lewis switching between laptop and trombone, with his huffing brass tone making a particular impression during a contrapuntal faced-off with Parker’s soprano saxophone during Seven-2. At nearly 46 minutes, “Seven-1” is the defining work, attaining several musical crests during its ghostly, meandering near time-suspension, Allowing for full expression of instrumental virtuosity, dynamic flutters, flanges and processes from the laptoppists accompany, comment upon or challenge the acoustic instruments. Alternately wave forms loops and echoes cause the instrumentalists to forge their reposes. Plenty of sonic surprises arise during the sequences. Undefined processed-sounding bee-buzzing motifs for example are revealed as mouth and lip modulations from Evans’ piccolo trumpet or aviary trills from Rothenberg’s clarinet. In contrast the electronics’ crackles and static are often boosted into mellower affiliations that sound purely acoustic. Eventually both aspects meld into a climax of bubbly consistency with any background-foreground, electro or acoustic displays satisfactorily melded. More percussive “Seven-2” has a climax involving fragmented electronics pulsating steadily as first Evans, then Rothenberg and finally Parker spill out timbres that confirm formalism as much as freedom. MORE

April 8, 2014

Anthony Braxton

Quartet (Warsaw) 2012
ForTune 0020

By Ken Waxman

True appreciation of Anthony Braxton’s music must come with the understanding that the only reference points for it are often other Braxton works. That said it’s also important to remember that there is no definitive Braxton style any more than there was an exclusive Duke Ellington or Sun Ra style. A musical omnivore, Braxton’s influences range over jazz, modern notated music, pure improvisation and electronics.

The provocative “Composition 363b+” that takes up all of Quartet (Warsaw) 2012 for instance, appears to be a step away from his recent repetitively tremolo Ghost Trance and Falling River musics. Instead it relates to his sessions from the ‘70s where a stringed instrument would provide the continuum, with the top – not front – line consisting of improvising expressions from Braxton plus another reed or brass player. Featuring violinist Erica Dicker, alto saxophonist James Fei and long-time Braxton aide-de-camp cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, plus the composer on alto and tenor saxophones, this composition approaches that earlier style. However real-time electronic processing generated by SuperCollider supplies the tense, crackling ostinato here. MORE

January 8, 2014

Anthony Braxton

Echo Echo Mirror House
Victo cd 125

Anthony Braxton

Ensemble Montaigne (Bau 4) 2013

Leo Records CD LR 684

By Ken Waxman

Whenever the controversy about what or who is or isn’t jazz is breached there’s likely no more polarizing figure than Anthony Braxton. Braxton has been so prolific in his writing and playing however that ample arguments can be mustered for both points of view. These recent CDs should add more verbiage to the discussion. Although both are well executed and absorbing, Braxton’s protean skills are such that a case can be made either way. MORE

November 3, 2013

Anthony Braxton

Echo Echo Mirror House
Victo cd 125

François Houle/Håvard Wiik

Aves

Songlines SGL 1601-2

Roscoe Mitchell Quartet

Live at A Space 1975

Sackville-Demark SK 2080

Evan Tighe

Threadcount

ETC 0001

Something In The Air: Recorded in Canada, Appreciated World-Wide

By Ken Waxman

Without question one of jazz’s most representative records is of a 1954 concert with Bop masters Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach in their only performance together. That the session was recorded in Toronto’s Massey Hall makes it distinctive as well as replaceable. But Jazz at Massey Hall isn’t the only instance of jazz history being made north of the border. Precisely because of gig opportunities for committed international improvisers discs recorded at Canadian gigs or festivals are an important part of the music’s fabric. MORE

April 6, 2013

Lest We Forget

Borah Bergman (1926 or 1933-2012)
By Ken Waxman

For someone who didn’t even record until he was in his forties, Borah Bergman’s prodigious talent soon marked him as one of jazz’s most skillful experimental pianist, a reputation he maintained until his death on October 18 last year.

An enigmatic figure, Brooklyn-born Bergman was either 79 or 86 when he died. He claimed he shaved seven years off his age in the biography for his first record date in 1975. That relatively mainstream disc on Chiaroscuro only hinted at his powers, which came to the fore during the subsequent decades in solo performances and as he partnered many of free jazz’s heavy hitters both in Europe and North America. MORE

October 7, 2012

Lest We Forget

Willem Breuker (1944-2010)
By Ken Waxman

The blend of anarchism, precision and humor suggested by Willem Breuker Kollektief (WBK), the name of the ensemble the Dutch saxophonist/composer led for 36 years until his death from lung cancer on July 23, 2010, underlined the fascinating contradictions in his music. A collective has everyone on equal footing no matter how skilled, yet this Kollektief had Breuker as the undisputed boss of a group of first-class soloists. Furthermore the sly joke in this wordplay was also reflected in the WBK’s on-stage horseplay. Breuker not only ensured that the unmistakable modern jazz played included themes by notated composers such as Kurt Weill and George Gershwin, but also a large helping of physical and instrumental comedy that might culminate in the vocalizing of a ’20 ditty like “Yes We Have No Bananas”. MORE

September 10, 2011

Rastascan

Label Spotlight
By Ken Waxman

“There was never a master plan, except to release music I enjoy and promote musicians I want to help”, says Bay area drummer Gino Robair when asked why he started Rastascan records in the early 1980s and has kept it going ever since.

Over the years the California imprint, named after the term “rasters” from television technology, has put out music on CD, LP, DVD and cassette, as downloads and even on flexi-disc, with sessions featuring artists ranging from Anthony Braxton and Evan Parker to lesser-known improvisers. “Unlike many labels that take a curatorial stance or try to ‘produce’ each record, I give the artists full control over the presentation of their work,” explains Robair. “They determine the look of the graphics, the order and choice of the music, the titles of the album and pieces. That’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about running a label; seeing and hearing the full artistic statement that the object represents”. MORE

August 6, 2011

Label Spotlight:

SoLyd Records
By Ken Waxman

Like that of many successful endeavours ranging from the mass production of the automobile, the feature-length cartoon or the personal computer, SoLyd record label’s driving force is one person. While Andrei Gavrilov, may or may not like the comparison to Walt Disney, Henry Ford or Steve Jobs, it’s his ideas, taste and finances that keep the Moscow-based label afloat and is responsible for its massive, (more than 400 releases) somewhat idiosyncratic catalogue. “Sometimes, when I look over the catalogue I get confused myself,” he admits. MORE

December 9, 2010

Anthony Braxton/Gerry Hemingway

Old Dogs (2007)
Mode Avant 9/12

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet +1

3 Nights in Oslo

Smalltown Superjazz STSJ197CD

Sun Ra

The Heliocentric Worlds

ESP-Disk 4062

Rivière Composers’ Pool

Summer Works 2009

Emanem 5301

Something in the Air

By Ken Waxman

Boxed sets of recorded music have long been a holiday gift. But sophisticated music fans won’t settle for slapped together “best of” collections. Boxes such as these, collecting multiple CDs for specific reasons, should impress any aware listener. MORE

July 3, 2010

Time and Anthony Braxton

By Stuart Broomer
The Mercury Press

Stuart Broomer knows Anthony Braxton.

He has listened to the American multi-instrumentalist/composer’s music from the beginning, attended concerts by him since the early 1970s, written about the musician many times, and over the years interviewed Braxton formally and informally.

Because of this familiarity, Broomer sets himself a more difficult-than-usual task here, unlike historic biographies, journalistic chronicles or transcription-heavy texts designed to demystify a musician’s style. Instead the author’s focus is on how Braxton alters and dislocates time through his multi-faceted compositions and improvisations. MORE

January 6, 2010

Anthony Braxton + Italian Instabile Orchestra

Creative Orchestra (Bolzano) 2007
RAI Trade RTP J0013

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra

GIOPoetics

Creative Sources CS 114 CD

Creating large form improvisations involving groups of musicians in polyphonic agreement without losing the spontaneity implicit in smaller groups has long been a challenge for composers. Many methods have been tried in order to introduce and maintain sonic freedom when the ensemble is larger than the standard 16-piece Jazz band. These mostly European sessions outline two successful ways of doing so. MORE

January 6, 2010

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra GIOPoetics
Creative Sources CS 114 CD

Anthony Braxton + Italian Instabile Orchestra

Creative Orchestra (Bolzano) 2007

RAI Trade RTP J0013

Creating large form improvisations involving groups of musicians in polyphonic agreement without losing the spontaneity implicit in smaller groups has long been a challenge for composers. Many methods have been tried in order to introduce and maintain sonic freedom when the ensemble is larger than the standard 16-piece Jazz band. These mostly European sessions outline two successful ways of doing so. MORE

February 23, 2009

Anthony Braxton Quartet

(Moscow) 2008
Leo Records CD LR 518

Anthony Braxton

Trio (Victoriaville) 2007

Victo cd 108

Taking some time from his Ghost Trance Music and large ensemble work, over the past couple of years, multi-reedman/composer Anthony Braxton has recruited a more intimate touring ensemble, which on the evidence of these CDs, perfectly frames and personalizes his new compositions.

Initially called the Diamond Curtain Wall trio and filled out by guitarist Mary Halvorson and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum – both of whom studied with Braxton and play in his larger groups – the band recently became a quartet with the addition of bassoonist Katherine Young, a 2003 graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory. MORE

February 23, 2009

Anthony Braxton

Trio (Victoriaville) 2007
Victo cd 108

Anthony Braxton Quartet

(Moscow) 2008

Leo Records CD LR 518

Taking some time from his Ghost Trance Music and large ensemble work, over the past couple of years, multi-reedman/composer Anthony Braxton has recruited a more intimate touring ensemble, which on the evidence of these CDs, perfectly frames and personalizes his new compositions.

Initially called the Diamond Curtain Wall trio and filled out by guitarist Mary Halvorson and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum – both of whom studied with Braxton and play in his larger groups – the band recently became a quartet with the addition of bassoonist Katherine Young, a 2003 graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory. MORE

February 1, 2009

Kyle Brenders

Flows and Intensities
No Label No #

Anthony Braxton & the AIMToronto Orchestra

Creative Orchestra (Guelph) 2007

Spool Line SPL 130

Ken Aldcroft’s Convergence Ensemble

Trolleys

Trio Records TRP-009

Ken Aldcroft

Vocabulary

Trio Records TRP-SS01-008

EXTENDED PLAY – AIMToronto

By Ken Waxman

Barely four years since its founding, The Association of Improvising Musicians Toronto (AIMToronto), has raised the profile of local improvisers, while nurturing the scene. This almost 200-member, non-profit collective helps find venues in which to hear improvised music – most prominently Somewhere There in Parkdale – presents concerts featuring visiting musicians interacting with locals, and has organized a large improvisers orchestra. One of AIMToronto’s highest profile gigs took place at the Guelph Jazz Festival in 2007, where 18 AIMToronto members played the music of the American improv guru Anthony Braxton with the composer on soprano saxophone. The result was Creative Orchestra (Guelph). It showcases 18 AIMToronto members following the ever-shifting tonal centres in five Braxton compositions. MORE

February 1, 2009

Anthony Braxton & the AIMToronto Orchestra

Creative Orchestra (Guelph) 2007
Spool Line SPL 130

Ken Aldcroft’s Convergence Ensemble

Trolleys

Trio Records TRP-009

Ken Aldcroft

Vocabulary

Trio Records TRP-SS01-008

Kyle Brenders

Flows and Intensities

No Label No #

EXTENDED PLAY – AIMToronto

By Ken Waxman

Barely four years since its founding, The Association of Improvising Musicians Toronto (AIMToronto), has raised the profile of local improvisers, while nurturing the scene. This almost 200-member, non-profit collective helps find venues in which to hear improvised music – most prominently Somewhere There in Parkdale – presents concerts featuring visiting musicians interacting with locals, and has organized a large improvisers orchestra. One of AIMToronto’s highest profile gigs took place at the Guelph Jazz Festival in 2007, where 18 AIMToronto members played the music of the American improv guru Anthony Braxton with the composer on soprano saxophone. The result was Creative Orchestra (Guelph). It showcases 18 AIMToronto members following the ever-shifting tonal centres in five Braxton compositions. MORE

February 1, 2009

Ken Aldcroft

Vocabulary
Trio Records TRP-SS01-008

Ken Aldcroft’s Convergence Ensemble

Trolleys

Trio Records TRP-009

Kyle Brenders

Flows and Intensities

No Label No #

Anthony Braxton & the AIMToronto Orchestra

Creative Orchestra (Guelph) 2007

Spool Line SPL 130

EXTENDED PLAY – AIMToronto

By Ken Waxman

Barely four years since its founding, The Association of Improvising Musicians Toronto (AIMToronto), has raised the profile of local improvisers, while nurturing the scene. This almost 200-member, non-profit collective helps find venues in which to hear improvised music – most prominently Somewhere There in Parkdale – presents concerts featuring visiting musicians interacting with locals, and has organized a large improvisers orchestra. One of AIMToronto’s highest profile gigs took place at the Guelph Jazz Festival in 2007, where 18 AIMToronto members played the music of the American improv guru Anthony Braxton with the composer on soprano saxophone. The result was Creative Orchestra (Guelph). It showcases 18 AIMToronto members following the ever-shifting tonal centres in five Braxton compositions. MORE

July 2, 2008

A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music

By George E. Lewis
University of Chicago Press

Home from his studies at Yale University in 1971, trombonist George Lewis was walking to his parents’ home on Chicago’s South Side when he heard unusual sounds coming from a nearby brick building. Peering inside he saw a group practicing what he calls “fascinating” music. Asking if he could attend future rehearsals, Lewis was grudgingly welcomed into what he soon found out was the disciplined but inventive milieu of the Association of the Advancement Musicians (AACM). MORE

March 13, 2006

ANDRE VIDA

Child Real Eyes
Vidatone 5

ANTHONY BRAXTON
Quintet (London) 2004
Leo Records CD LR 449

Novelist Christopher Isherwood titled one of his autobiographical volumes “My Guru and his Disciple” and it appears that the majority of musicians who have come into the orbit of multi-reedist Anthony Braxton have the same sentiments.

As one of Free Jazz’s most influential players, composers, orchestrators and, for more than two decades, an educator, guru Braxton has affected two or three generations of improvisers, most of whom take something unique from his teaching. Arguably the most important non-mainstream jazz pedagogue since pianist Lennie Tristano, Braxton’s disciples often play in his ensembles. Furthermore, in contrast to Tristanto, Braxton loves to record, to such an extent, that he can usually be called upon to second his former students on disc. So far he’s lent his talents to CDs featuring among others trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum, accordion player Ted Reichmann, saxophonist Scott Rosenberg and Andre Vida, the reedist who leads CHILD REAL EYES. MORE

March 28, 2005

BRAXTON/SZABADOS/TARASOV

Trio Tone
Leo Records CD LR 416

Perhaps Anthony Braxton’s most uncommon yet satisfying CD of the past decade, TRIO TONE is memorable because the American saxophonist functions as part of an improvising trio rather than promulgating his own ideas.

Recorded on a busman’s holiday to Serbia-Montenegro in 2003, the disc features Braxton operating as one-third of a cooperative trio convened to play two compositions by Hungarian pianist György Szabados, which led to three subsequent encore/improvisations. Braxton, who is always up for unique collaborations, played and recorded with Szabados, in the early 1980s. Adding lustre to the match up is the presence of former Ganelin Trio percussionist Vladimir Tarasov, who is based in Vilnius, Lithuania. Outside of the trio, Tarasov’s associations have included Braxton’s colleague, American drummer Andrew Cyrille, the ROVA Saxophone Quartet and the Vilnius State Philharmonic. MORE

January 31, 2005

Free Jazz and Free Improvisation

An Encyclopedia by Todd S. Jenkins
Greenwood Press Volume One A-J; Volume Two K-Z

By Ken Waxman

January 31, 2005

Reviewing a stand-alone project like Free Jazz and Free Improvisation presents a unique set of challenges, since you must deal with what isn’t covered in the 500-odd oversized pages of these two volumes as much as what is.

From the downbeat author Todd Jenkins has to be commended for his Herculean task, collecting from various sources essential information about Free Music and putting it into approachable form for the student, the researcher as well as the improvisational newbie. MORE

April 12, 2004

ANTHONY BRAXTON

Ninetet (Yoshi’s) 1997, Vol.2
Leo CD LR 382/383

Ever get one of those melodies inside your head that you keep hearing over and over again and that you can’t get out of your memory, no matter how hard you try?

Well, Anthony Braxton seems to be trying to create a similar situation with his Ghost Trance Music (GTM). A preoccupation of the composer/reedman since at least the mid-1990s, GTM compositions are usually played by larger bands and include a repetitive -- and nearly identical theme -- leavened by improvised solos.

Like the unique soundworlds created by other distinctive improvisers such as AMM or The Necks, to truly appreciate GTM you have to accept Braxton’s compositions on their own terms. Each time you have to simultaneously focus on the leitmotif that controls the piece’s shape as well as listen to the instrumental work around it. MORE

December 1, 2003

JOHN BUTCHER

Invisible ear
Fringes 12

ANTHONY BRAXTON
Solo (Milano) 1979
Golden Years of New Jazz GY 20

When visionary Anthony Braxton ushered in the idea of solo saxophone sessions with FOR ALTO in 1969, he probably never released how many contemporary reedists would follow his lead.

Today it seems that nearly every modern horn player, excluding the so-called Smooth Jazz fraternity, has tried his or her hands -- or more rightly fingers -- at the concept with mixed results. Luckily the CDs here feature the work of two stylists who thrive on solo playing, because they’re internalized its inherent challenges, beyond novelty. Instructively, as well, the discs also show how unique applications have altered underlying concepts. MORE

April 7, 2003

ANTHONY BRAXTON/TAYLOR HO BYNUM

Duets (Wesleyan) 2002
Innova 576

ANTHONY BRAXTON Four Compositions (GTM) 2000
Delmark 544

Reedist Anthony Braxton is the true theoretician of abstract jazz notation. Throughout his more than 30-year compositional career, he has invented many terms and genre names for his music. Given his unique combinations of numbers and illustrations, some of them could probably unhinge information retrieval specialists familiar with the intricacies of the Dewey Decimal System and many search engines.

Although his present academic position -- Braxton’s now head of the music department at Wesleyan University -- seems to have convinced him to now rely solely on composition number, subsets still exist. For instance, FOUR COMPOSITIONS (GTM) 2000, is a quartet version of the Ghost Trance Music (GTM) he has been writing since the late 1980s; DUETS (WESLEYAN) 2002, is an example of post-Ghost Trance sounds. MORE

January 24, 2002

ANTHONY BRAXTON

News from the 70s
Felmay/Newtone FY 7005

With his MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” and his tenured position at Wesleyan University now part of his storied past, it would seem that Anthony Braxton has attained the respect he deserves as an academic and a serious American composer. However, a document like this CD -- or “text” as the academics would term it -- serves as a reminder of how he achieved what he did.

Organized by Italian jazz writer Francesco Martinelli and consisting of almost 75 minutes of tapes from Braxton’s private tape stash, the newest track dates from 1976 and the oldest from 1971. Braxton’s improvising and band leading is emphasized as much as his composing here, and hearing him in contexts ranging from solo to quartet you quickly pick up on the skill, technique and intensity that drew people to him in the first place. Hitherto-unknown compositions and new versions of older compositions are exposed, as are unique or under-recorded partnerships. MORE

April 24, 2001

Turning Corners

The Life and Music of Leroy Jenkins
By Carl E. Baugher Cadence Jazz Books

King (queen?) of classical music, the violin has had a checked history in jazz. Saddled with the reputation of having a tone too quiet for raucous syncopating and demanding extensive study to play correctly, the number of improvising violinists has always been pretty limited. Joe Venuti, Eddie South, Stuff Smith, France's Stéphane Grapelli and Denmark's Svend Asmussen are the few cited in histories of Swing and Bop. Michael White, Jean-Luc Ponty and Michael Urbaniak -- the later two more-or-less lost to fusion -- took the fiddle into the 1960s and 1970s. Only with the rise of pure improvised music did strings finally come into their own. Today the improvisations of such violin and viola players as Billy Bang, Matt Maneri, Phil Wachsmann and Mark Feldman are as valued as other instrumentalists' contributions.

MORE

February 21, 2001

SCOTT ROSENBERG/ANTHONY BRAXTON

Compositions/Improvisations 2000
Barely Auditable bar 222

Appreciation of a first class session like this results when the listener can relate what appears to be a "difficult" saxophone duo to a cappella singing voices. What Anthony Braxton and Scott Rosenberg are doing with their massed woodwinds on the CD, after all, is approximating the different tones, textures and harmonies available to blended human voices.

Or take some time to mentally strip away the backing on popular songs like "Soul Man" from a duo like Sam & Dave. Note how the two voices compliment one another when harmonizing, take turns accompanying the other when someone sings lead, or produce counter melodies when each individual take off on vocal flights. That's what's going on here, but with saxophones and clarinets.

MORE

August 24, 2000

ANTHONY BRAXTON

For Alto
Delmark DE-420

Thirty-one years later it's hard to fathom the reception this landmark album received and Braxton's audacity in putting it out. Remember it was a time when not only New Thingers, but mainstreamers were struggling for work, jazz rock was ossifying into fusion and the only hope seemed to be coming from intricate compositions and orchestrations of writers like Muhal Richard Abrams.

Yet here was Braxton, all of 24 years old and with only one other LP under his belt, putting out what was a 2-LP set of the sort of solo improvisations only allowed pianists at that time.

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