To his list of achievements and awards, Anthony Braxton may now add the 1994 MacArthur Fellowship: the so-called "genius" grant of (in his case) $300,000, awarded to individuals nominated for outstanding and original contributions to their field.
The timing of this crowning achievement couldn't be better for Braxton's most recent professional goals: he is the founding Artistic Director of the newly incorporated Tri-Centric Foundation, Inc., a New York-based not-for-profit corporation including an ensemble of some 38 musicians, four to eight vocalists, and computer-graphic video artists assembled to perform his compositions.
The ensemble's debut at New York's The Kitchen sold out the last and most of the first two of three nights, through the press excitement it generated; the reviews—in Down Beat and the Chicago Tribune (John Corbett), the Village Voice (Kevin Whitehead), and the New York Times (Jon Pareles)—ranged from positive to ecstatic.
Most importantly, the musical success of the event inspired Braxton to pursue the "three-day and -night" program concept for this ensemble, including lectures/informances, and splinter chamber performances, around the world.
The second New York event, indeed, expanded on the concept: The Knitting Factory presented six nights of Anthony Braxton and his music, in all the variety of its vision. The first night showcased the composer's solo alto saxophone playing; the second his treatments of jazz-traditional material, both as reeds player and pianist; the third, his music for solo piano, and for synthesizer and acoustic sextet; the fourth showcased his new "Ghost Trance" music for small-to-medium groups; and the fifth and sixth his large-ensemble music, including Composition 102, with giant puppets. As with The Kitchen, all six nights included a full house and enthusiastic response.
This successful first season paid off: the second season has been virtually paid for by grants from the Mary Flagler Carey Charitable Trust and the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City. It will feature the world premiere of the four-hour opera Trillium R at the John Jay Theater in New York, and the theatrical Composition 173 (for actors, improvisers, and ensemble) in collaboration with New York's Living Theater members, at The Kitchen.
Anthony Braxton is widely and critically acclaimed as a seminal figure in the music of the late 20th century. His work, both as a saxophonist and a composer, has broken new conceptual and technical ground in the trans-African and trans-European (a.k.a. "jazz" and "American Experimental") musical traditions in North America as defined by master improvisers such as Warne Marsh, John Coltrane, Paul Desmond, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, and he and his own peers in the historic Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM, founded in Chicago in the late '60s); and by composers such as Charles Ives, Harry Partch, and John Cage.