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Anthony Braxton: News From The 70's

Glenn Astarita By

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“News From The 70s” represents recently unearthed tapes found within the bowels of Mr. Braxton’s basement. The insightful liner notes written by Italian jazz luminary Francesco Martinelli, reveal the processes and criterion implemented for this project as Martinelli put the gears in motion along with Braxton’s assistance.

Anthony Braxton’s fertile 1970’s period quickly established this esteemed musician/composer as a genius. His linear and mathematically constructed compositions have been analyzed to death. Braxton has always aligned himself with the creme’ de la creme’ of modern jazz. Mere mortals may be incapable of performing his music yet, Braxton deserves much credit for being a purveyor of young talent as he helped wean and nurture the likes of John Lindberg (b), Ray Anderson (tb), George Lewis (tb), Barry Altschul (d) Kenny Wheeler (tp) and to some degree Dave Holland (b) and Chick Corea (p). Although Corea and Holland cut early roots with Miles, Braxton’s unique and startling conceptual approaches to modern jazz created quite a buzz in the early 70’s as musicians were eager to stretch their creative boundaries within Braxton’s multi-dimensional framework. Braxton’s musical brilliance is flat out awe-inspiring. On “News From The 70’s” we get an aural peek of selected Braxton compositions adhering to guidelines that suggests musical and historical relevance despite the sometimes less than perfect sound quality.

The first track, Braxton’s “Composition 23E” was recorded live in Holland on either May 16th or 17th as the liners state. Here, Braxton along with Kenny Wheeler (tp), Dave Holland (b) and Barry Altschul (d) are in top form complete with circular rhythmic development and classic dialogue between Braxton and Wheeler. On Braxton’s “Composition 8C”, Braxton performs solo alto sax. Nowhere to hide as Braxton churns out gorgeous sublime phrasing coupled with his now infamous vibrato techniques. The sound quality on this track is good. Braxton and Dave Holland team up as a duo on Braxton’s “Composition-1” which was recorded live at New York City’s Town Hall in 1971. Braxton and Holland are playful here and the composition for the most part is of an exploratory nature. Holland’s wonderful arco-bass technique shines, as Braxton intuitiveness is distinctly observable. “Composition –2 was recorded in France on December 7th 1973. Here, Braxton along with Wheeler team up with two French mainstream musicians; Antoine Duhamel, piano and Francois Mechali, double-bass. Mechali’s steady walking bass line underscores the complex unison lines between Wheeler and Braxton. Mid way through this piece Duhamel gives the band a well deserved breather with a mid-tempo piano solo that is loaded with block chords; however, it is evident that Duhamel seems tentative here and perhaps felt slightly at odds or uncomfortable within the modernistic environment of Braxton’s music. Braxton follows with a sopranino solo that gets the piece back on track as Wheeler displays marvelous technique and control with a sparkling trumpet solo. Kenny Wheeler maintains his deeply personalized sound even when he breaths fire as he seldom loses his signature style which often incorporates soul searching warmth and triumphant beauty. Braxton goes it alone again on “Composition 8g” recorded in France, 1971. On this piece, Braxton pulls out the stops as he honks, squeals and gets the most out of his alto sax. Here, Braxton exposes his inner self and one gets a strong sense that Braxton is conveying his immediate emotions and thoughts through his instrument; hence, Braxton’s alto acts like a translator of sorts.

The final track is Dave Holland’s “Four Winds” along with Braxton, George Lewis and Barry Altschul. Recorded in Austria 1976, this track was originally recorded on Holland’s ECM classic “Conference For The Birds”. Needless to say, this is a scorcher as trombonist George Lewis is especially amazing while performing at breakneck speed showing clear and concise phrasing, alluding to incredible control and discipline.

“News From The 70’s” is a welcome surprise and is a must for the Anthony Braxton completist and for those who may be too curious to let this one slip away. The sound quality is okay and holds up well considering that amateurs made the original tapes. Recommended.


Title: News From The 70's | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Felmay


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