Sunday, April 8, 2018

Anthony Braxton - 1979 - Alto Saxophone Improvisations 1979

Anthony Braxton
Alto Saxophone Improvisations 1979

01. Comp. 77 A 7:30
02. Comp. 77 C 6:25
03. Red Top 6:13
04. Comp. 77 D 7:30
05. Comp. 77 E 4:25
06. Comp. 26 F 6:30
07. Comp. 77 F 6:19
08. Comp. 26 B 6:58
09. Along Came Betty 8:00
10. Comp. 77 G 5:15
11. Comp. 26 E 6:20
12. Giant Steps 6:20
13. Comp. 77 H 7:00

1978 – November 28 (A1, A2, B1, B4),
1978 – November 29 (A3, B3, C1-D1, D3),
1979 – June 21 (B2, D2).

Big Apple Studios
New York, NY (USA)

Alto Saxophone – Anthony Braxton

Side One, Cut One (pretentiously titled GNG
R (which probably stands for "Going Nuts Giving Braxton Reign--Nothing Registers") sounds like a wet-behind-the-ears kid just brought his brand new alto saxophone (a Vito student model) home and is attempting to "play" it for the first time: every squeak, every squawk, split-tone and non-musical, pre-amateur bleeet and blat imaginable is coming out of the bell of this horn. Give me an alto saxophone and I could do the exact same thing--today!

Side One, Cut Two (entitled RKRR[SMBA]W, which most likely stands for Resuming Krappy Record Re: Saxophone Making Bach Arpeggios-Whaaaa?) is the same student playing almost-proper Bach-like arpeggios from one of those saxophone method books we saw in High School. His tone has improved since track one.

Side Two, Cut Three (104 Degrees-Kelvin M-18): Now the kid has come across some scales and exercises he's having some problems with, so he becomes more and more frustrated, and ends up biting the reed and throwing the saxophone through the wall, it goes.

So why do I have to hand it to Anthony Braxton? Because the man is Brilliant: He has somehow figured out a way to GET PEOPLE TO PAY TO LISTEN TO HIM PRACTICE! He somehow convinced the suits at Arista that there are enough dumb people (like me!) who would pay to listen to 80 minutes of someone practicing at home (or in a New York studio, or where ever)! This is why I called him a "Genius." No one else could have possible gotten away with this! Every note: good, bad, or indifferent, every squeak, every squawk, every bleet, every blat, every blatz, every blitz, every zetz is here for your listening "enjoyment" (?). Brilliant! Braxton's part of the jazz Avant-Garde, so everything he does is brilliant, right? You don't need the high school kid just starting out on his horn living next door disturbing the peace if you have a copy of this thing.

And those Braxton-penned liner notes! These are written in the bizarre language I remember from college called "Professor Speak." I'm dizzy and astral-travelling from just trying to make sense of these notes! If anybody out there can drop me a comment and tell me a) What the heck these notes mean, and b) What language they are in (other than "Professor-Speak") I would greatly appreciate it.

Three stars? Yes, for all the laughs--this is almost like a comedy album with no words. There are "funny," albeit non-musical, moments here and there. But listening to 80 minutes of solo alto--some of the tracks like "Red Top" virtually cry out for a rhythm section--is overkill, no matter who the saxophonist is (I wouldn't even want to listen to Bird, Stitt or Rollins practice for 80 minutes, much less someone with a grating, unpleasent tone like Braxton). In essense, if you buy this album, you're paying to listen to someone practice, and not always successfully at that!

This double-Lp features Anthony Braxton playing his strongest horn (alto-sax) unaccompanied on ten of his diverse originals plus a trio of standards ("Red Top," "Along Came Betty" and "Giant Steps"). The thoughtful yet emotional improvisations contain enough variety to hold one's interest throughout despite the sparse setting; this twofer (as with many of Braxton's Arista recordings) is long overdue to be reissued on CD.

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