Saturday, April 7, 2018

Anthony Braxton - 1972 - Town Hall

Anthony Braxton 
Town Hall

LP track Listing:
Town Hall Concert: Part 1
01. Composition I: S-37C-67B-F7 Dedicated To The Composer-Percussionist Jerome Cooper
02. Composition II: G-10 4ZI FK=47 Dedicated To The Composer-Pianist Frederic Rzewski
03. Composition II: G-10 4ZI FK=47 (Continued)
04. All The Things You Are
Town Hall Concert: Part 2
05. Composition III: W-12------B-46 C28-12...4 Dedicated To The Vocalist Jeanne Lee
06. Composition III: W-12------B-46 C28-12...4 (Continued)

CD Track Listing:
01. Composition 6 N (dedicated to Jerome Cooper) / Composition 6 (O) (dedicated to Frederic Rzewski) - 18:18
02. All The Things You Are (by Jerome Kern) - 14:12
03. Composition 6 P I - 13:46
04. Composition 6 PII (dedicated to Jeanne Lee) - 21:25

Concert organized by Anthony Braxton & George Conley; Recorded at Town Hall, New York, N.Y., on May 22, 1972 by John Sadler.


1 + 2 = Trio:
Anthony Braxton - alto sax
Dave Holland - bass
Philip Wilson - drums

3 + 4 = Quintet:
Anthony Braxton - alto sax, soprano sax, flute, contrabass clarinet, soprano & b flat clarinet, percussion
John Stubblefield - tenor sax, flute, bass clarinet, gong, percussion
Jeanne Lee - voice
Dave Holland - double bass
Barry Altschul - percussion, marimba

For those seeking the deep roots of Anthony Braxton's numbered series of compositions -- numbering close to 200 -- this 1972 concert is essential in that it features live recordings of "Composition 1" (for percussionist Jerome Cooper), "Composition 2" (for pianist Frederic Rzewski), and "Composition 3." This marks a return home, albeit a temporary one, for the composer and multi-instrumentalist -- Braxton left the United States for France in 1968, where he made a few recordings for European labels. Braxton showcases his work in a number of settings here -- in a pair of trios with bassist Dave Holland and drummers Phillip Wilson and Barry Altschul, and on "Composition 3" (for vocalist Jeanne Lee) saxophonist John Stubblefield and Lee herself become a part of the band. Also in the mix is in a wildly abstract but street-tough read of "All the Things You Are." On "Composition 1," Braxton, Holland, and Wilson establish early on what would be a trait in the composer's improvisations, which is the notion of a theme thoroughly stated, abstracted, deconstructed, and reconstructed into something wholly other while remaining recognizable. Critics have argued this, but those who deny it just don't listen closely enough. Here Braxton's first quotations from Warne Marsh make their way onto tape, and his manner of shifting pitch against chromatic and even whole-tone harmonics to create the appearance of diatonic abstraction comes into play as the body of the work. Holland plays away from it, moving toward Braxton's outer reach while Wilson moves inside the thematic construct, opening it up enough to keep Holland within reach of the subtle shifts some of the improvisation requires for articulation. On "Composition 2," the center moves outward with Altschul and Holland playing on the perimeter; Braxton's complex but nonetheless readily apparent lyric fragments keep them rooted to a space just within his reach improvisationally, inverting the traditional operation of a trio. Finally, on "Composition 3," Lee adds a kind of (a)tonal center as Braxton tries out six different reeds. Stubblefield offers a muscular counterpart to Braxton's more speculative tone, and offers a spatial figure for all things to exist in equally. Silence is an integral part of the dynamic in this quintet, where no player oversteps her or his placement within the construct of the whole. And while it is true, other than the cover tune, none of this "swings" per se; it doesn't reek of academia either. The playing here is soulful and engaging throughout it features some crack improvisation.

Time has an ability to obscure certain details of the past. This notion is apparent when considering the multi-decade oeuvre of visionary composer Anthony Braxton, whose restructuralist Tri-Axium Theory is as unique as Ornette Coleman's Harmolodic Theory or Cecil Taylor's Unit Structures. Braxton's use of pulse structures and multiple logics has long encouraged a considerable amount of expressive autonomy from performers, yet the composer's idiosyncratic aesthetic has commonly been attributed to an iconoclastic sensibility that inadvertently undervalues his seminal membership in the AACM—an organization whose collective ideology places great importance on group collaboration. Embracing this communal methodology more than most of his albums, the live concert recording Trio & Quintet (Town Hall) 1972 documents some of Braxton's most intriguing and embryonic experiments, conceived well before his elaborate concepts blossomed into the daunting complexities for which he is renowned.

Totaling in the hundreds, Braxton's numbered/graphical compositions have encompassed a wealth of technical innovations over the years; this set reveals the expansive dynamics of his Number 6 series realized in a range of approaches, from austere introspection to brash expressionism. The first half of the concert presents Braxton's oblique alto excursions supported by bassist Dave Holland and drummer Philip Wilson. Holland's earlier work with Braxton, pianist Chick Corea and drummer Barry Altschul in the avant-garde super-group Circle (1970-1971) lends his rapport with the leader an intuitive, freewheeling air. Holland's virtuosic pizzicato and Wilson's lithe, in-the-pocket accents provide Braxton's blistering chromatic flights a supple undercurrent through a range of extreme sonic dynamics, while framing the lyrical interpolations of an abstract reading of "All The Things You Are" with recognizably melodic footnotes.

The quintet pieces illuminate a far more esoteric aspect of Braxton's singular aesthetic. The expanded ensemble features Altschul replacing Wilson in the drum chair and multi-instrumentalist John Stubblefield serving as Braxton's foil, with vocalist Jeanne Lee stepping out front. Neo-classical in approach, the second half of the date waxes and wanes from aleatoric pointillism to roiling bouts of frenetic collective improvisation, with Lee's highly expressive vocalese uniting a kaleidoscopic array of instrumental textures, from Braxton's bellowing contrabass clarinet ululations to Altschul's effervescent marimba cascades. In addition to matching the leader's angular cadences note for note, Lee imbues Braxton's quixotic lyrics on the concluding "Composition 6 P II" with poetic finesse, bringing a stately sensibility to an early period of Braxton's work that is sorely under-documented, making Trio & Quintet (Town Hall) 1972 a truly remarkable reissue.

Anthony Braxton - 1972 - Saxophone Improvisations / Series F

Anthony Braxton 
Saxophone Improvisations / Series F

01. BWC-12 N-48 K (Stage 1-3) 4:26
02. NR-12-C (33 M) 9:04
03. RFO-M° F (32) 6:50
04. JMK-80 CFN-7 17:54
05. 178-F4 312 2:15
06. NBH-7C K7 5:19
07. MMKF-6 (CN-72) 6:54
08. (348-R) C-233 7:17
09. 104°-KELVIN M-12 19:00

Recorded February 25, 1972 in Paris at the Studio Decca (rue Beaujon)

Saxophone, Composed By [Compositions] – Anthony Braxton

The Inner City label reissued this album not out of some great commitment to avant-garde solo saxophone, but because there was a licensing deal with the shady French label called America, and Braxton himself had elevated his position back home. He was a contracted artist with Arista when this reissue popped out, and had some big write-ups in magazines such as Rolling Stone -- none of which could possibly prepare an uninitiated listener for the onslaught that is his solo saxophone music in the early days when his manner of presentation was less refined and documentation was low-budget. This early-'70s recording is a bit better quality than his landmark solo recording done for Delmark on a cassette player that probably cost less than the price of watching Braxton for two sets at a New York club, back when they were hiring him. But it still sounds like it was recorded in someone's kitchen, and the pressings that either label involved in this release were willing to pay for weren't exactly top of the line. The next thing is to say that all this is part of the charm, but that would be a lie. Cheesy recording mars some of the quieter and subtler parts of the first side, and is only a bit less of a problem on the loud distorted sections. Some listeners may feel like tossing the album onto the fireplace in the first five minutes, with the opening suite coming across as a bit precious and inevitably compounded by gouges and shrapnel in the pressing. Nonetheless, the extended performance that makes up all of the second side is one of the greatest things Braxton has ever put on disc, a demonstration of energy, versatility, manipulation of tone, and perverse musical logic that stands as one of the best solo horn performances in the jazz discography. And although the early recordings of Braxton seem to be marked by frustration and failure, this is a suitable follow-up to For Alto as well as an improvement, a great accomplishment in itself.

Anthony Braxton - 1971 - Recital Paris 71

Anthony Braxton 
Recital Paris 71

01. Come Sunday (Dedicated To Johnny Hodges) 25:10
02. G N 6 (X' 70B) (Dedicated To David Tudor) 8:52

Track 1 recorded on January 4, 1971 live at Theatre de l'Epée des Bois, Paris.
Track 2 (Four multi-tracked pianos) recorded on January 2, 1971 at Europasonor Studios, Paris.

Anthony Braxton: Sax, Piano

Abundance creates whole new levels of compulsion, under which desire can continue unchecked despite aural and mental satiety.

Anthony Braxton enthusiasts understood this dynamic several decades in advance of the digital music era. Even then, most of us necessarily learned to draw the line somewhere: while you’d always find noteworthy exceptions, you tended to focus on a particular period of Braxton’s work, or a group with specific backing musicians, or a kind of instrumental ensemble, or even a record label. Often these would be determined in part by your first exposure to Braxton’s music, the first Braxton recording I owned was the double-LP Alto Saxophone Improvisations 1979 I scored for 2 guilders from the cut-out bin at a bulk sale store in the centrum of The Hague in the early 90's

So I’ve always been partial to Braxton’s quartet and solo work, and the Tricentric Foundation’s recent announcement of an “official bootleg” 1971 solo recording available for free through this year’s holiday season compelled me to go ahead and add one more downloaded recording to my collection. Since 2011, when they first released Solo (France) 1971 in its “Braxton Bootleg” series, Tricentric has augmented the already voluminous body of Braxton recordings by at least a third. For those keeping score, that’s over one hundred additional recordings in a total discography that currently numbers at 309.

Nevertheless, Solo (France) 1971 is a valuable entry in the Braxton catalog, historically and in its own right. It stands between his two watershed double-LP solo alto saxophone recordings, For Alto (Delmark 1969) and Saxophone Improvisations, Series F (America 1972). For Alto proved to be a groundbreaking moment in the history of recorded jazz and a benchmark for saxophonists to come. It’s a consummate statement not despite but because of its sonic imperfections: while Chuck Nessa achieved some post-production cleanup of the home recordings Braxton made in his Parkway Community Center apartment, For Alto still retains an urgent grittiness and presence as vital as the music itself.

His 1972 follow-up for the America label could be viewed in this context as a studio-quality redo of For Alto if it weren’t for the fact that here Braxton featured newer material, specifically the Composition 26 series of solo works as opposed to the Composition 8 series featured on For Alto. Then in 1975, the Futura label released Braxton’s LP Recital Paris 71, a misnomer in that side 2 was a studio recording of a four-part overdubbed piano piece. Side 1 however featured a 25-minute rendition of the Duke Ellington standard “Come Sunday,” from a performance at the Theatre de l’Epeé des Bois in Paris; soprano saxophone specialist Steve Lacy was also on that bill and thereby awakened to the possibilities of solo performance that he went on to explore at length.

The first two tracks on Solo (France) 1971, and the clear standouts to my ears, were issued in 1998 on the CD News From the 1970s, which accompanied the current issue of the Italian magazine Musica Jazz. A haphazard piece work, News mistitles the two solo alto tracks and separates them in its running order, placing between them a duo with Dave Holland on cello and a quartet date with Kenny Wheeler and a French rhythm section. So if anything, it’s worth having Solo (France) 1971 solely for restoring these two pieces in their full and proper context.

Track one is a nine-minute rendering of a gorgeous ballad, which the Tricentric release calls “Composition 26A” and calls “Composition 26D.” Here I’m inclined to believe restructures, because it’s without question the same tune Braxton gives an all-too brief (2:20) treatment to open the second disc of Saxophone Improvisations, Series F. Played mostly in the alto’s middle-high register, this France 1971 version begins with a quiet near-octave drop and then uses a climbing 4-note arpeggio as a signature motif. Braxton takes two runs through the theme, solos while routinely suggesting and even quoting the theme, and then goes “back to the head” in traditional fashion. In fact it’s perhaps Braxton at his most “singable,” and if the long-mistaken notion of his music as “too cerebral” still exists, this track can put that notion to bed for good.

France 1971’s second track track is without question “Composition 8F,” which Braxton rendered in jaw-droppingly blistering fashion as Track 2 on For Alto. Clocking in just 70 seconds shy of the original rendition, what this version lacks in length and firey intensity it makes up for, as does the whole release, with the overall recording quality, which features nicely balanced roomsound and just a touch of reverb. Comparing the two performances also makes it clear how well-structured the piece is, with Braxton’s shifts in attack, register and tone–from the overblown runs and staccato blasts to the most altissimo squeals–all clearly deliberate and planned in advance.

At the release’s midpoint stands a version of Irving Berlin’s “They Say It’s Wonderful,” which Braxton renders admirably. Then come two more originals: “Composition 8J” is a study in eighth-note patterns, showing Braxton working through a variety of scales and chords, with more than enough melody to avoid charges of being a mere formalistic exercise. This piece also made it to the Series F release, and again in live performance Braxton extends the treatment by a full minute-and-a-half, working through slightly different scales from the onset but still making the composition recognizable.

Closing out the set is “Composition 26G,” which explores multiphonics, or the production of multiple notes simultaneously. In this rendition, Braxton works mostly from the stratosphere down, lingering in extreme altissimos while picking up lower notes along the way. At the three-minute mark, Braxton hums at pitches below his playing to enhance his harmonic and tonal production. In hindsight one can see this piece as a textbook example of techniques Steve Lacy and Evan Parker would soon be using to great effect, Lacy in his various “Duck” pieces and Parker in his Chronoscope recordings en route to forming his mature solo style.

The total running time of Solo (France) 1971 stands at a little over half an hour, which seems short of a full live performance and begs the question if the tapes ran out or haven’t fully surfaced. In fact, their origin adds to yet another lingering confusion: Tricentric’s release notes indicate that the recording “comes from a reel to reel tape in Mr. Braxton’s possession in a box labeled ‘Ghent’” and that “research by Hugo DeCreen suggests that this is indeed a solo concert from France 1971, and that the Ghent solo concert was in 1973.” Regardless, the downloaded tracks from Tricentric bear the words “Solo (Ghent) 1969 to 1971” in both the album folder and the individual tracks’ album title fields.

Until the details get sorted out, it’s perhaps best to put aside the discography nerd in you–and just enjoy the music.

Anthony Braxton - 1970 - This Time...

Anthony Braxton 
This Time...

01. Composition No 1 13:10
02. Solo 5:42
03. Small Composition No 1 2:22
04. Small Composition No 2 3:03
05. Small Composition No 3 1:00
06. Small Composition No 4 1:55
07. Small Composition No 5 3:30
08. In The Street 3:56
09. This Time... 1:45

Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, Chimes, Voice – Anthony Braxton
Drums, Darbouka, Percussion – Steve McCall
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Horns, Wood Block, Siren – Leo Smith
Violin, Viola, Flute, Harmonica, Accordion – Leroy Jenkins

Recorded January 1970 in Paris.

From the opening contrabass clarinet gurgle, it's clear this is no ordinary free jazz album, despite the fact it was released on the quintessentially volcanic free jazz imprint BYG Actuel. This Time features Anthony Braxton on alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet and contrabass clarinet, flute, sound machine, chimes, and voice, Leo Smith on trumpet, flügelhorn, horns, logs, and siren, Leroy Jenkins on violin, viola, flute, mouth organ, and electronic organ, and Steve McCall on drums, percussion, and darbouka in a striking display of vintage AACM multi-instrumentalism. That instantly recognizable Chicago mix of dazzling virtuosity and toy town tinkles and toots still sounds as fresh and crisp as it did when it was recorded back in January 1970; as well as exploring the further reaches of virtuoso improvisation and surrealistic poetry (on the title track), Braxton also throws the windows of the cage (pun intended) open onto the outside world: "In the Street" was recorded where it says it was -- in the street. The other pieces are generically titled ("Solo," "Small Composition," "Composition," etc.) -- Braxton's idiosyncratic algebraic/geometrical titles don't feature here -- but are about as far from generic as you could hope to get. Wild, wonderful, insanely creative, and absolutely timeless.

Anthony Braxton - 1970 - For Alto

Anthony Braxton
For Alto

01. Dedicated To Multi-Instrumentalist Jack Gell
02. To Composer John Cage
03. To Artist Murray De Pillars
04. To Pianist Cecil Taylor
05. Dedicated To Ann And Peter Allen
06. Dedicated To Susan Axelrod
07. To My Friend Kenny McKenny
08. Dedicated To Multi-Instrumentalist Leroy Jenkins

Alto Saxophone – Anthony Braxton

These are the original liner notes to Anthony Braxton's For Alto, written by Braxton himself but never used. Braxton made a revision in 1970 to the original text, editing out bits which have been restored to give a more complete idea of Braxton's original thoughts. Text edited by Braxton appears in blocks


I was going to say that I was deeply indebted to Stockhausen but I changed my mind. I changed my mind because I am sitting on this desk trying to think of valid ideas to write on the back of a record [but the whole scene is a drag]&emdash; right now my leg is itching [but I am not afraid] &emdash; anyway I had planned to write about the different approaches to the music on this record but I feel so ridiculous because it's so stupid to try and explain anything [especially since you don't know where it is anyway that even as Lynn types this I become more and more frustrated and yet I do want the money for writing liner notes so I must continue, especially since I've already been paid]. I would like to also use my liner notes as a chance to voice my dissatisfaction with the rising rate of the CTA.

I have wanted to do a solo saxophone record for the last two years and as such have been preparing material so I was very happy to have the opportunity to record this music, some points because I recorded them myself the sound quality is not quite as clear as I would like for it to be. In fact, there are several sections where the quality is bad [horrible] [I apologize for this (now why did I say that because I really don't feel bad about it). I think I was just saying that but I don't know why people should constantly have to say things they don't mean, especially when it's not benefiting me. ( I'm really embarrassed. I just received a Dear John letter. I really don't understand it but onward, we must always go onward, but I don't mean to be cruel. I don't understand that last remark of mine because I'm the one who got the Dear John letter] &emdash; but because I was happy with the music I decided to include them anyway &emdash; also I wrote the extra noises in on the score &emdash; so its all right.

For Alto cover This is a very nice room that I'm in right now but since I've decided not to mention Lynn's name I'll merely confine my remarks to the scenery as such (whatever that means), If this record doesn't sell a million copies I will be very disappointed. Already I am making room on my mantle for a gold record and I am going to have parties and I am preparing an acceptance speech.

[About my saxophone, I've had Lucy for six years and while she has been repaired several times I love her very much (until I can get some money to get her traded in) I am really surprised about that Dear John letter &emdash; I mean there must be other ways]

I went to an electronic music concert the other day and was very pleasantly surprised with the realization of Frank Gordon and Donald Stark, This has been a good week for me &emdash; Leo Smith gave a concert at the University of Chicago which I was fortunate to catch also and then Richard Abrams, who was in a good mood at the time, even wrote up my astrology chart to which I'm very grateful. My sun sign is Gemini with Virgo risings, I thought I had Libra risings and so I was surprised Richard has always helped me. [I am getting very tired trying to write these liner notes]

[How do I feel right now? Well, I'm not consciously in pain] I haven't had the chance to play music in some time. I would like to play but the conditions are so strange that I find myself staying home more often than not, This is a very strange period for contemporary music and there seems to be no end in sight unless of course this is my ego and maybe I have no right to feel that way. Of course, I might not feel that way. I am happy that Lynn says she will miss me when I go to New York. I wonder if she really means it. I hope she does though. She has been with me in a very different period of my life and for that I am very grateful. I only heard Ornette Coleman live for the first time last year and I was very impressed both with his music, with the horn and without the horn. I tried to meet Stockhausen, but was unsuccessful. I am really surprised how little the musicians know about each other &emdash; or what each other is doing &emdash; but maybe someday that might be corrected. I am going for my driver's license, hopefully tomorrow and if I don't pass the test I will be very unhappy &emdash; I lost my license in the Army when it fell out on the ground in training. This is the first chance I've had to get it again. I wish Warne Marsh would record something soon.

One day I would like to do an album &emdash; no on second though I'd rather not talk about it. It'd be very silly to write about things I should be doing rather than what I do. Ann says that she has plenty of ideas for my liner notes, one of which is to put my favorite cookie recipe down and if we need some room on the notes I'll do just that. I met Jimmy Lyons the other day in Maywood, Illinois. I was very glad to meet and talk to him and his wife Barbara. We talked about a black critique, I disagreed with his ideas but had a very stimulating evening and Barbara's mother served us delicious chili. I had a very difficult time when I was at Roosevelt University, especially in the music school. I could get no one to play my music and very few of the composers sympathized with my ideas on art and I didn't like the food in the lunchroom. In Paris I met a very interesting Yugoslavian chess player who I studied with. He was the strongest chess player I've ever seen in my life and if we could have communicated, he spoke hardly any English, I would have studied with him indefinitely. I would very much like to go back to school and complete my studies. There are so many things happening in this period to learn about and plus I am so tired of my situation as it stands now. Right now I am somewhat worried that when I return to New York, my music, which I have been writing for the last four years, might not be there. I seem to be constantly making stupid moves but if I lose my music what a drag. I should be leaving Thursday. [If I had my instrument right now I would like to play] "Ruby, My Dear" by Thelonious Monk [. That] is such a beautiful piece of music. Thelonious Monk has always been one of my favorite composer musicians and if could find the name of the Albert King tune that I like I would purchase it immediately. The last three years in the A.A.C.M. has seen radical changes in the techniques employed on all instruments, especially the saxophone with accomplished players like Jarman, Mitchell, Threadgill, Stubblefield, McIntyre as well as musicians like Wallace Macmillan &emdash; there is always a stimulating atmosphere. Chicago is very fortunate to have these people. The A.A.C.M. in my opinion, the last-first hope of the music. Hopefully we will not be crushed. John Cage hardly ever comes to Chicago. I can hardly concentrate with you in the room. Lynn is very mysterious. I have been searching for Gemini composers and was happy to find that Stravinsky is a Gemini but there seems to be more Sagittarius composers. I wonder what that means. I disagree with Henry Pleasant's book, The Agony of Modern Music. I wish Bunky Green could record more. He has always been one of my favorite alto saxophone players. I first heard him when I had just gotten out of the Army. He is one of the most exciting alto saxophones I have ever heard. I seem to constantly miss the Kontarsky Brothers when they come to Chicago. I have been told that they perform a piece of Earl Brown's. I would really like to hear that. Earl Brown is one of the strongest composers in the past seven years. Now why did I say seven years? Why couldn't I just say I really like Earl Brown, which is true. I sometimes think about the future of jazz magazines. I don't really understand what's happening with the jazz critics: unless that avenue can be corrected, creative music will always be surpressed, which is to say we will surpress ourselves. Last week, Dan Morganston accepted one of my articles for his magazine. I was very happy to write but I fear my article will be misunderstood, but what can one do? Musicians are going to have to write about their music&emdash;making attempts to narrow the gap between the audience and the music. Donald Stark asked me to explain my mathematical approaches last Saturday and I talked for a half hour but was unsuccessful I fear. It has become increasingly difficult for me to explain anything. If I go to the West Coast I would really like to see Donald Garrett. I am very much impressed by Stockhausen's piano music. I seem to be in a piano music period and lately I find myself listening to early piano pieces exclusively. I would like to go back and study piano as soon as possible. I have always wanted to play Berg's Sonata. In St. Louis Julius Hemphill and Oliver Lake are two of the most original players of the music that I have heard in that area. It would be very good to hear them again as I have not heard them for more than a year and I wonder what Phillip Wilson is doing. I think he is playing with Paul Butterfield right now. I disagree with McLuhan's essays on media but I refuse to tell why. In this period I find Dostoyevsky very attractive. I have decided to accept for my philosophy an excerpt from his Notes on the Underground &emdash; "My liver is diseased. Well, let it get worse." I don't really know how I feel about Frank Zappa but maybe I should listen to him more. I am still trying to learn the words to "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands." [I have always been against Aristotle's systems of logic that most of us have unconsciously accepted in the way that we live. His concepts are frightening to say the least.] The philosophy department at Roosevelt is full of shit.

Why doesn't someone write about Bobby Blue Bland. It seems to me that he is without peers. I have never heard him play live and on the next occasion I will definitely catch him. Yesterday, I heard him play on record his version of "Please Save Your Love for Me" which is incredible. I would like to make a blues record one day, Koester has called the blues on this record high society blues &emdash; told me I don't know anything about blues even. I was very unhappy with the reception of my first record but I have now gotten used to it. I read in Coda Magazine that our music was a poor example of Webern. The jazz musicians say it is not jazz and the classical musicians say it is not classical. I like the jacket though...

There must be something else to say. Oh, the music on this album is almost a year old. Today is Feb., 23rd. Hopefully, this record will be out soon. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Lester Lashley was awarded "New Trombone Player of the Year" or something like that in Down Beat. There are very few trombonists of his caliber. If there were recording opportunities in Chicago I feel that American Contemporary music would be benefited. Chicago is the center of the new music without a doubt. Steve McCall told me recently that he is going back to Europe. Needless to say I was surprised. He only recently came back to Chicago after being away two years. I believe LeRoy Jenkins is the most advanced violin player performing. That he hasn't gotten the recognition and exposure he should have is appalling. Lynn's back is tired. I hope I can finish my liner notes before she gives up. I would like to hear Maurice McIntyre play before I leave Chicago. I think his soul is incredible and I have always loved his music. I think it's obvious that notions of Mathematical music will have to be completely altered if it is to continue to be creative. I think constantly about the gap between where the music is at and where the music is at. I've found on the whole that the people in Europe were more receptive to our music than here in Chicago. Maybe that might account for some of the advance players I met. One day I would like to get my orchestra music performed. It is very difficult to have any music performed. Hopefully this album is the first of a series of solo albums for myself. Most of the music on this record has been performed at different recitals that I have given in Chicago. At Lincoln Center on the South Side of Chicago and at the Parkway Community Center in '68. I was thinking about growing a beard but have changed my mind because it hurts so much after one week. I don't think I would like to live in Chicago any more. Several of the pieces on this record were inspired extensions of different principles in contemporary classical music, notably Klavestuck 6 and 4 of Stockhausen and Morton Fillman's Durations. With different forms of music being so readily available it has become very difficult to distinguish between forms or approaches. Maybe we are at the junction where we will not need this anymore. I had given up sweet rolls because they aren't healthy but find I myself going back to them. The sweet rolls in France were horrible.

Braxton 2/23/69 [revised in 1970]

Recorded in 1969, this historic album was the very first lengthy document of solo saxophone improvisation. Originally available as a 2 LP set, all 73 minutes are now on one CD. When initially issued, For Alto received a five star rating in Down Beat which called the album ''revolutionary''. It is now listed as one of the Village Voice's 10 Greatest Avant Jazz Albums of All Time!

A review of the LP re-issue in Downbeat read ''Though For Alto was only Braxton's second recording, his solo vocabulary of multiphonics, pointillistic intervals, and scalar lyricism was already in place. This set of breathy balladic fragments, streams of molten sound, and reconstituted blues elements has stood the test of time.''

Originally released as a two-LP set in 1969, For Alto is 73 minutes of unaccompanied saxophone solos by a young musician issuing just his second recording under his own name. Solo saxophone was then a rarefied tradition in jazz. Coleman Hawkins had done it once in the 1940s and Sonny Rollins in the '50s. More to the point, Eric Dolphy and Jimmy Giuffre had done it a few times in the early 1960s. Braxton was being more than brash, however, and doing something very different. He was applying fresh structural concepts to sustain extended improvisations, and he was exploring John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, as well as the jazz tradition, to mark a new direction in the avant-garde.

Forgoing the "energy music" school, Braxton was exploring silence, noise, and forms of serialism with an analytical, almost sculptural, approach to sound. Each piece here explores a different approach or set of materials. There's buzz-saw saxophone on "To Composer John Cage," while "To pianist Cecil Taylor" is heartfelt blues that delves back before bebop for its sources. Tracks 5 and 6 are breathy, extended improvisations, the former exploring pianissimo understatement, and the latter developing elliptical complexity, with both drawing on and redirecting the jazz-ballad tradition. The concluding piece, nearly 20 minutes long, builds dialogue from contrasts between brittle, abrasive overblowing and the merest suggestions of notes. For Alto is one of those rare works that point to new possibilities, and it's been one of the most influential recordings of the past 30 years. It remains brilliant, challenging--perhaps even daunting--music. --Stuart Broomer

The avant-garde “For Alto” is a groundbreaking, completely unaccompanied solo alto sax excursion by NEA Jazz Master and MacArthur Fellow composer, arranger, leader, educator, and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton. Originally issued as a double vinyl LP package identified by “Side 1”, “Side 2”, “Side 3” and “Side 4” with Braxton’s distinctive and characteristic symbology for each song instead of traditional song titles. Downbeat Magazine, according to the liner notes, gave a ‘five-star’ rating to “For Alto”, calling it “revolutionary”. This was in 1969 when the ‘New Thing’ or avant-garde was more acceptable thanks mainly to the likes of Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane who took the early ire of the ‘jazz critics’ and pressed on with their daring musical mission, eventually becoming the darlings of many ‘jazz critics’; if it had been released in 1960, the rating might have been much lower and the music might be seen as highly controversial, even by the likes of the very vocal Miles Davis in an early DownBeat Blindfold Test who angrily castigated Coleman and Eric Dolphy, but later became a crossover innovator. Following this, Braxton went on to much acclaim with his many different-sized units, such as his Ghost Trance music, and his Diamond Curtain Wall Trio and Orchestra and his collaboration with Chick Corea in the protean all-star avant-garde group, 'Circle'.

“Song 1” is dedicated to “multi-instrumentalist Jack Gell” and is short, sweet, and lyrical. On his amazing and lengthy “Song 2”, which is dedicated to “Composer John Gill”, he really cuts loose with a fusillade of notes, sounds, glisses, held notes, and phrases, pushing his alto sax out to its theoretical limits, especially in the altissimo range and over an extended area of his instrument. The lyrical “Song 3” is dedicated to “artist Murray De Pillars” and is full of trills and other notes that sound like a clarinet or bass clarinet at times. Song 4 is dedicated to the legendary free jazz composer, arranger, and “pianist Cecil Taylor” and is very bluesy, lyrical, and semi-traditional at times, with opposing “sheets of sound” evident at other times , ending on a very peaceful note. One of the longest pieces is “Song 5” which is dedicated to Ann and Peter Allen and is very calm and song-like, with long periods of very quiet, reflective moments included. “Song 6” is dedicated to Susan Axelrod. The relatively peaceful, “Song 7”, is dedicated to his “friend, Kenny McKenny” and is a study in alto sax high and low timbres, some of which are quite thick. “Song 8” is dedicated to Braxton's AACM compatriot, “multi-instrumentalist Leroy Jenkins” and has some similarities to “Song 7” but sped up in tempo. Groundbreaking stuff, indeed. My Highest Recommendation. 

Like any other sub-genre in jazz music free jazz is marked by a timeline of precedent setting events. Many of these moments inevitably center on recordings: Cecil Taylor’s Jazz Advance, Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz, John Coltrane’s Ascension, Albert Ayler’s Spiritual Unity. In the case of the AACM two recordings by members of the association’s roster are widely regarded as points on this continuum- Roscoe Mitchell’s Sound and Anthony Braxton’s For Alto.
Braxton’s recording possesses a further and even more far-reaching distinction in that it was the first extended document of solo saxophone improvisation in the history of recorded music. Coleman Hawkins’ precedent-setting “Picasso” predates it by twenty years but Braxton was the first player open up his horn to a protracted, uninterrupted stream of consciousness discourse. Over three decades after its original release it still has the capacity to dumbfound and astound. Eight pieces, each one a dedication to a peer, a friend or an influence. The opening melodically-tinged track floats across the ears for brief seconds before Braxton’s bell bursts forth full-bore blowing a stream of stentorian blasts in histrionic tribute to minimalist composer John Cage. Given the nature of the dedicatee it’s surprising how much density is packed into the piece’s nine and half minutes. Later pieces act as forums for other facets of Braxton’s formidable technique from multiphonics and breath sounds to split tones and spiraling harmonics. Not all are full frontal assaults either. The pieces dedicated to the Allens and Susan Axelrod are rife with whispy balladic segments sometimes so quiet that the clack of keys against pads and the gulp of breaths can be heard in the mix. What’s more all of the improvisations were recorded in real-time leaving them with a raw, unadorned edge that only serves to make the music even more compelling.

This is a recording and artistic statement that completely changed the rules. Braxton’s gall seemed audacious to some, but revolutionary to far more and the hindsight of history has proven this latter camp correct. His opened the gates for solo improvisatory expression for all players up to the challenge to pass through and in the intervening years many of the giants of improvised music have followed suit. Joe McPhee, Evan Parker, Peter Brötzmann, so many others; all have raised their reeds to their lips on record in the absence of others with only their thoughts and facility to guide them. If it hadn’t been Braxton who led the charge, someone else may have done so eventually. But the fact remains that it was him and For Alto was the catalyst for all that followed.

Anthony Braxton - 1969 - B-Xo Noi 47a

Anthony Braxton 
B-Xo Noi 47a

01. The Light On The Dalta 9:56
02. Simple Like 9:22
03. B-X0 NO-47A 19:30

Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, Chimes – Anthony Braxton
Drums, Darbouka, Percussion – Steve McCall
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Horns, Wood Block, Siren – Leo Smith
Violin, Viola, Flute, Harmonica, Organ – Leroy Jenkins

Recorded September 10, 1969 at Studio Saravah, Paris.

The full LP title is given in graphical notation on the cover, B-X0 NO-47A is a simplification in text form.

"We went to Paris because it made no sense to stay in Chicago after 1969. We were dying. And I had been reading about Europe for years. I thought there was a possibility people would be more interested in the music. I went on ahead of Leo and Leroy. I took a plane to Paris; I had a one-way ticket and fifty dollars in my pocket."

Graham Lock: Forces In Motion: The Music and Thoughts of Anthony Braxton
'Given that the methods used in contemporary art have changed (to say the least) I want to discuss the empirical aspects of that which we have realised, hopefully, that one who understands us will help a part of society that has normally (in contempt) moved up to reject its hatred towards our music. Since Ornette Coleman, the actual music, by the experience of 'jazz', broke the western chains (by extension) which had victimized it and we can now perceive the appearance of a new art that has a lot of promise.'

The snippet from Graham Lock's book, and the excerpt from the liner notes clearly show part of Braxton's motivation to be in Paris at this time. Equally, Braxton's composition 6G, or B-Xo/ N-O-1-47A, with performers being given balloons to do with as they see fit, shows a response to some of the ideas that had come from John Cage. Braxton's notes above are careful to put this in the context of what he sees as a much deeper musical tradition, although I think this is optimistic on his part - it would probably be truer to say that he was trying to understand what this approach could offer him and equally he was being scrutinised for what he might bring. There is an element of self-consciousness in this piece, and others from this period, which changes its character later (e.g. in some of the duos with Derek Bailey), and eventually disappears.

Anthony Braxton - 1968 - 3 Compositions of New Jazz

Anthony Braxton 
3 Compositions of New Jazz

01. 840M (Realize) 19:50
02. N/M488/44M/Z 12:50
03. The Bell 10:20

Recorded at Sound Studios: Track 1 on March 27, 1968; Tracks 2 & 3 on April 10, 1968.
Track 1 is Comp. 6E and track 2 is Comp. 6D, according to Braxton discography.

Saxophones, Clarinet, Flute, Bagpipes [Musette], Accordion, Bells, Drums  – Anthony Braxton
Piano, Cello – Richard Abrams
Trumpet, Mellophone, Xylophone, Percussion [Bottles], Kazoo – Leo Smith
Violin, Viola, Harmonica, Bass Drum, Recorder, Cymbal, Whistle [Slide] – Leroy Jenkins

Prolific multi-reedist/composer Anthony Braxton is an immensely influential jazz artist who has covered just about every conceivable area of creativity during the course of his extraordinary career. Beginning with jazz's essential rhythmic and textural elements, Braxton combines them with all manner of experimental compositional techniques, from graphic and non-specific notation to serialism and multimedia. Largely considered a genius, his self-invented (yet heavily theoretical) approach to playing and composing jazz has as much in common with late 20th century classical music as it does jazz, and therefore has alienated some who consider jazz at a full remove from European idioms. Although Braxton exhibits a genuine -- if highly idiosyncratic -- ability to play older forms (influenced especially by saxophonists Warne Marsh, John Coltrane, Paul Desmond, and Eric Dolphy), he has never really been accepted by the jazz establishment, due to his manifest infatuation with the practices of such non-jazz artists as John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Some critics have even insisted that Braxton's music is not jazz at all. Whatever one calls it, however, there is no questioning the originality of his vision; Braxton has created music of enormous sophistication and passion that is unlike anything else that has come before it. He is able to fuse jazz's visceral components with contemporary classical music's formal and harmonic methods in an utterly unselfconscious -- and therefore convincing -- way. The best of his work is on a level with any art music of the late 20th or early 21st centuries, jazz or classical.

Born in Chicago in 1945, Braxton began playing music as a teenager, developing an early interest in both jazz and classical musics. He attended the Chicago School of Music from 1959-1963, then Roosevelt University, where he studied philosophy and composition. During this time, he became acquainted with many of his future collaborators, including saxophonists Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell. Braxton entered the service and played saxophone in an Army band; for a time he was stationed in Korea. Upon his discharge in 1966, he returned to Chicago where he joined the nascent Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). The next year, he formed an influential free jazz trio, the Creative Construction Company, with violinist Leroy Jenkins and trumpeter Leo Smith. In 1968, he made his debut as a leader with Three Compositions of New Jazz, which featured fellow AACM members Jenkins, Smith, and Muhal Richard Abrams. He returned a year later with For Alto, the first-ever recording for solo saxophone. Braxton lived in Paris for a short while beginning in 1969, where he played with a rhythm section comprising bassist Dave Holland, pianist Chick Corea, and drummer Barry Altschul. Called Circle, the group stayed together for about a year before disbanding (Holland and Altschul would continue to play in Braxton-led groups for the next several years).

Braxton moved to New York in the 1970s, a decade that saw his creative star rise. He recorded a number of ambitious albums for ECM and for major label Arista, including New York, Fall 1974, and Creative Orchestra Music 1976. He also maintained a quartet with Holland and Altschul -- even appearing on Holland's landmark debut album, Conference of the Birds. Also during this period, he performed with a bevy of artists including the Italian free improvisation group Musica Elettronica Viva, guitarist Derek Bailey, and in a duet setting with drummer Max Roach (Birth & Rebirth). In 1978, he welcomed the birth of son Tyondai Braxton, a composer, musician, and founder of the indie rock outfit Battles.

The '80s saw Braxton continue to record and issue albums on independent labels at a dizzying pace. He also moved easily between ambitious large-ensemble albums like 1981's Composition No. 96 and more intimate trio albums like 1987's ...If My Memory Serves Me Right with pianist David Rosenboom and bassist Mark Dresser. Braxton's steadiest vehicle in the '80s -- and what is often considered his best group -- was his quartet featuring pianist Marilyn Crispell, drummer Gerry Hemingway, and bassist Dresser, with whom he recorded such albums as Six Compositions (Quartet) 1984 and Quartet (London) 1985. From the mid-'80s onward he taught regularly, first at Mills College in California, and finally at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. In 1994 he received a large grant from the MacArthur Foundation that allowed him to finance some large-scale projects he'd long envisioned, including an opera. He also founded his own Braxton House label, releasing such albums as Sextet (Istanbul) 1996 and Trillium R: Composition 162 - An Opera in Four Acts/Shala Fears for the Poor.

Braxton taught at Wesleyan throughout the 2000s, during which time he continued to perform and record, delivering a mix of large and small group projects like Quartet 2006: Ghost Trance Music and Creative Orchestra: Bolzano 2007. He also revived his long dormant nonprofit Tri-Centric Foundation to promote his work and support up-and-coming creative artists. In 2013 he was bestowed the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award for his lifetime achievements in jazz. That same year Braxton retired from the faculty at Wesleyan. Since then, he has remained a vital presence both live and in the studio, with albums like the expansive box set Quintet (Tristano) 2014 and Solo (Victoriaville) 2017.

In the 1960s a new fuse had been lit under the ass of jazz. As musicians of the bop era drove out hard bop, free jazz and modal works, avant-garde was slowly taking root as well. Growing from the seeds of luminaries such as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Eric Dolphy and Cecil Taylor came wild and turbulent sounds. Nowhere else in the history of jazz was there such ferocity and angst. Melody was scrapped and replaced with articulated chaos. In the process the jazz's ideology was wiped from the charts. Taking cues from the avant-garde composers, jazz reset the bounds of experimental composition. Standing at the forefront in the late sixties with another new vision of composition was Anthony Braxton.

As understated and misunderstood today as it was upon its release, 3 Compositions of New Jazz can be cited as a masterpiece of western music's deconstruction or a glaring opus of misdirected noise. I believe it is in fact a masterpiece! Many, including myself, see Braxton as genius who threw caution to the wind and created complex and intricate pieces that can still challenge and provoke controversy even close to forty years later. Fusing ideas of jazz's avant-gardists with Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage, Braxton created a new sound that stepped even further ahead than what his jazz predecessors had done. Though Coltrane may have channeled LaMonte Young on My Favorite Things , 3 Compositions of New Jazz tackles jazz from the view of deconstructionist western-based models. With this record and Braxton's career we have the New York Uptown Jazz scene featuring such notables as Bill Frisell, Joey Barron and of course Braxton's most notable heir John Zorn - his Naked City was profiled April 2003 - and America's answer to the European avant-garde take on third stream jazz.

Piled with layers complex pieces written for a variety of instruments clashing together is the first sound that comes to mind. The music hits like sheets of gnawing power, tearing into your head. Borrowing Coleman's melodic ideas, Braxton allows the rips of violinist Leroy Jenkins fill in for the brass' normally lyrical performance. Leo Smith's trumpet on the other hand works much in the same way as Don Cherry's did for Coleman, bending around the space and melody without filling any of it in. As well Muhal Richard Abrams uses the piano as a percussive instrument as John Cage and Cecil Taylor have. But Braxton's methodical composition style is where this record differs greatly from his peers. Braxton uses mathematical based methods for composing. This idea of using math as a foundation appears throughout the work of post-modern composer Iannis Xenakis who utilized graphs and architecture to create pieces. Although it may seem bizarre, music's structure is based in a numerical idiom itself, these composers merely twisted that foundation to different applications of mathematical ideas and created some of the most innovative sounds.

The argument begins here, is Braxton a genius or fraud? Listening closely to the pieces takes a great amount of effort. There is no use in even denying it. But as the sounds individualize themselves the cohesive idea begins to form. Once you are able to get by the seeming randomness of the instruments, it easy to see why many consider Braxton among the last great visionaries of jazz. Though artists like Zorn surely deserve credit for their innovative ideas, they were certainly not the first to push jazz into such a wild frontier. 3 Compositions of New Jazz is without a doubt one of the hardest records to win over, but its style, tone and ideas are also some of the most influential in modern music today.

This album for Delmark couldn't have been hated by critics more when it came out, a clue that can tell us something brilliant lies within. Everyone was comparing Braxton's group to that of Roscoe Mitchell during this period, and consequently many failed to see the album in a proper context. Many lampooned Braxton's debut for its lack of a rhythm section--untrue really, as Abrams uses the piano as percussion and Braxton does toss some drums in now and then. They said this recording was too detached, that it was too cold, too static. That critics failed to identify the visionary nature of this recording is not unusual, for most of the truly great avant-garde/free jazz recordings of this time period were misunderstood and abhorred.

The music spans from spacious intervals to energetic frenzies, and the presence of Leroy Jenkins on violin adds dimension to the pieces. The sounds are spectacular, leaving the listener to scratch their head at times if trying to figure out what instrument is doing what. Muhal Richard Abrams makes it clear why the piano is considered, first and foremost, a percussion instrument. Don't beat yourself up if you can't dig this after the first listen--it isn't background music. Its a hard one to make it through and is only for listeners who crave something beyond nice melody and harmony. Recommended.