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George's Braithophone

AAJ Staff By

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Big Jazz Nerd,

Whatever happened to George Braith? I remember listening to him play on the street in NYC decades ago. Is he still playing?

Roger Sales, Darien, Connecticut


Roger:

Yes, George Braith is still making music at age 67. His home base is in Milwaukee where he leads the Braith Family Singers—Flame, Jasmine, Taharqa, Chime, and youngest grandson Chris.

Perhaps best known as the originator of the Braithophone—two soprano saxs welded together—Braith was one of only a handful of players to develop a two-horn technique, ala Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Born in NYC in 1939, Braith was a child prodigy on various horns. He began his professional career at the age of 13 with the Dickens LaRoca Big Band, and after graduating from high school in 1957, he went to Europe with his American Jazz Quintet—playing on the same bill as J.J. Johnson for an Amsterdam concert.

Braith's recording career escalated in the early '60's when he cut sides for Blue Note, including his debut as a leader Two Souls in One. The record featured Braith on soprano and alto saxs, simultaneously. Around this time Braith opened Musart, an avant-garde arts and music center in a basement on Spring and West Broadway in what is now the SOHO area of NYC. Musart was a gathering place for the top jazz artists in town. Larry Young, McCoy Tyner, Max Roach, Freddy Hubbard, Harold Land, Bobby Hutcherson, Abbey Lincoln, Wilbur Ware, Roy Haynes, Kenny Durham, Gilly Coggins, Albert Dailey and Beever Harris recorded at Musart. A deeply spiritual man, Braith was a friend and contemporary of John Coltrane. According to Braith, 'Trane called him up right before he died and asked George to call Albert Ayler, Pharaoh Sanders and Archie Shepp. Braith wasn't sure why, but about a week after 'Trane died. When Braith went out to visit Alice Coltrane she told him about 'Trane's message which she had received in a dream the night before. The message was that 'Trane would visit him every Tuesday at 3PM at Musart, and to be prepared. Accordingly, Braith told his friends not to visit him during the prophesized day and time, which he spent alone in meditation, waiting for 'Trane. Until one day when he heard a knock on the door. It was Sonny Rollins.

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