Anthony Braxton at the Chateauvallon Jazz Festival in 1973 this week. Heading into the direction of the Avant-Garde and explorations into Free-Jazz. Admittedly this isn’t for everyone, especially those whose taste in Jazz runs to the conservative – Free-Jazz has always had its legion of detractors – in fact, so has Modern Jazz in general. Maybe this just goes under the heading of Anything Different Is Going To Get Grief – the same applies to Pop Music, Art, Writing, Cinema – just about anything that exhibits a form of creativity often comes under fire for working outside the acknowledged norms – that it seemingly appears to be random and without discipline, often soliciting dismissals as ‘noise for noise’s sake’. But – when you take the time, keep an open mind, lose all the preconceived notions and approach this like you would anything else you’ve never experienced before, it’s a journey and its a complex one. It begs you to hear things differently.
Okay, the above was for people not familiar with Anthony Braxton, Free-Jazz or the Avant-Garde. Those of you who know, know that Anthony Braxton is widely regarded as a pioneer; to use a well-over-used word, a visionary and one of the foremost and most widely respected figures in Modern Music.
With over 100 albums to his credit, Anthony Braxton’s music is difficult to categorize, and because of this, he likes to refer to his works (and the works of his collaborators and students) as simply “creative music”. He has claimed in numerous interviews that he is not a jazz musician, though many of his works have been jazz and improvisation oriented, and he has released many albums of jazz standards. For example, in an interview Braxton explains, “even though I have been saying I’m not a jazz musician for the last 25 years; in the final analysis, an African-American with a saxophone? Ahh, he’s jazz!” In addition to these, Braxton has released an increasing number of works for large-scale orchestras, including two opera cycles.
Braxton’s music combines an ecstatic, primal vigor with highly theoretical and mystically influenced systems. He is the author of multiple volumes explaining his theories and pieces, such as the philosophical three-volume Triaxium Writings and the five-volume Composition Notes, both published by Frog Peak Music. While his compositions and improvisations can be characterized as avant-garde, many of his pieces have a swing feel and rhythmic angularity that are overtly indebted to Charlie Parker and the bebop tradition.
With all that in mind – dive in.