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Anthony Braxton carries with him many of the trappings of genius. A predilection for sudden and unexpected shifts in theoretical and praxical direction, a wholly original and often incomprehensible method of notating his ideas, a tendency to pursue individual innovations to point that many outside observers might deem excess- all of these are part of his artistic and philosophical persona. Given his many idiosyncrasies Braxton has often butted heads with the powers that be both within and without the boundaries of whatever is considered jazz. There have been many detractors over the years that collectively have assaulted everything from the ways he plays his instruments to the ways in which he teaches his students. Through recurring hailstorms of critique he has endured, following his own highly individual course and in the process challenging and changing the fabric of modern music.
In the time I’ve personally been aware of his music I’ve become lost or disinterested on numerous occasions, most recently with his epic operatic endeavor Trillium R, which to me was a project ill served by the way in which it was packaged and released. Another area that causes me to continually scratch my head is his seemingly unending Ghost Trance series. But balancing these more enigmatic offerings are such momentous entries as the various documents of his Willisau Quartet with Marilyn Crispell, Mark Dresser and Gerry Hemingway and his earlier quartets with the likes of George Lewis, Dave Holland and Barry Altschul- all seminal stuff by my estimation. Falling somewhere in between these two poles is his new project on CIMP, the first part of which is presented on this disc.
Drawing heavily on the post-bop songbooks of 60s icons Andrew Hill and George Coleman Braxton’s quartet almost approximates the sound of a forward thinking Blue Note era hard bop band. Programmatically speaking it has antecedents in earlier projects like his pair of In the Tradition albums for Steeplechase and later tribute vehicles like The Charlie Parker Project and Eight (+3) Tristano Compostions (both on Hat Art). Hearing Braxton’s ripe interpretations of these classic compositions is consistently captivating treat. His sound on alto edges deliciously close to soprano range and his acrobatic agility at defying harmonic/melodic strictures is often the only hint at freer leanings. His sidemen two of who are former pupils, fit perfectly into his designs. O’Neil takes on the role of hard bop plectrist, but still evidences the speed and veracity of a plucker well versed in the rigors of free improvisation. Norton moves from colorful texturalist to propulsive catalyst crafting a variety of engaging rhythms and Eulau often offers up flexible walking support.
As is often his custom Braxton offers ample explanation of his chosen shift in direction in the accompanying liners and his copious reflections make for a very interesting read. Braxtonian purists (is there such a group given the man’s relentless reinvention?) may be dismayed by their hero’s embrace of hard bop-associated material, but those among them willing to look past the sources will no doubt see indications of his enduring genius. For me it’s simply a pleasure hearing him play in a setting that is fresh and vibrant by comparison to some of the other avenues he’s been opting for expression of his undeniable talent. Here’s hoping that the soon to be released second volume works just as well.
CIMP on the web: http://www.cadencebuilding.com
Track Listing: Virgo/ New Arrival/ McNeil Island/ Black Monday/ C-Bop/ Pumpkin/ Alfred/ Griots/ No Doubt/ Lo Joe.
Personnel: Anthony Braxton- alto & soprano saxophones, flute; Kevin O
I love jazz because when I was a kid pop music was bland, plain, uneventful until one day I heard a tune on a juke box entitled Jump Red Jump By Tenor Saxophonist Red Prysock brother of Arthur Prysock
I love jazz because when I was a kid pop music was bland, plain, uneventful until one day I heard a tune on a juke box entitled Jump Red Jump By Tenor Saxophonist Red Prysock brother of Arthur Prysock. It was love at first sight . This was when Blues, Soul / Gospel Style Music was becoming popular amongst kids as well as hip adults and featured Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner and The Payola era DJ's such as Alan Freed. Not many people remember that Freed's Rock n Roll Band of the 1950's was The Count Basie Orchestra featuring the Guy Singer Tony Bennett (Anthony DiBenedetto) who grew up in Astoria, NYNY right next to my Home Town Jackson Heights NYNY.
I was first exposed to jazz when I heard Red Prysock, Sam The Man Taylor & groups like the Chord Cats recording of Shaboom! It made the Crew Cuts look LAME! Now Jazz, Blues, Soul, Gospel was pretty much joined at the hip back then and I learned that the tasteful Music was featured on The African American Radio Stations which led me to DJ's Like The Bruce, Jocko Henderson, Tommy Dr. Jive Smalls and eventually Symphony Sid Torin, China Valles and Len Pace. This all took place during my high school years and the following years in NYNY and South Florida. I actually flew to Copenhagen Denmark in 1961 to see Stan Getz, (One of my top 3 heroes in the Music Bird, Pres & Getz not necessarily in that order). Sadly Getz had already left town and snuck back into NYNY where he played Birdland (Undoubtedly without a cabaret card due to smack addiction.) No problem for me as I worked for Pan American Airways at the time and enjoyed a 90% Employee Discount.
I met Thelonious Monk, Stan Kenton, Warne Marsh, Lenny Tristano, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, Frank Foster, Dr. Lonnie Smith, among many others over the years.
The best show I ever attended was The Randall's Island Jazz Festival NYNY 1960. Monk & Edward Ellington Kennedy AKA Duke, starred among numerous others. I can not recall the entire Line Up but Monk brought along his Hat Collection which at the time contained I believe he told me 33 or 35 international Hats which he periodically changed often during his Solos. I have been unable to find that roster for that particular festival and since it was long ago I remember mostly Monk & Duke. Paul Gonsalvas played his legendary trademark twenty something chorus solo in between Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue which was outstanding.
The first jazz record I bought was Firstly, my Bro George was / is a Marine and he sent home his wax collection of LP's from Camp Pendleton CA before deploying to Okinawa in 1956 I think. Bird, Getz, Mulligan & Baker, Erroll Garner, Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Jazz at Newport 1956 and many more. I fell in love with Bird, Getz and Jeru & Chet for openers. Pres to my mind takes the all time Tenor Award and Budo, Piano etc.! However I digress Getz Long Island Sound and every other Getz record that I could find that was 1957 by then and I snuck in to Birdland for the First of many times before I was 18 ( Legal drinking age back then) It wasn't until just after my 18th Birthday that I was carded much to the bouncers chagrin as he recognized me as having being an established customer by then.
My advice to new listeners: Listen to the Music and keep it in the forefront not the background. A Local Band Leader whose name escapes me once said to me Jerry you can make time for the chicks later the Music is in the now and is more important than chicks ever will be. He was correct!
Next see live performances and introduce yourself to the Players most of whom will be respectful. Some, however, are unapproachable such as when I saw Miles so many times but his obvious disdain for certain fans was evident and he always walked off the stage after soloing. (Eddie Jefferson sang words to So What that so indicated this)!