Saturday, September 3, 2011

Anthony Braxton Plays Music

"It's like, everybody wanted to use freedom as a context to freak out, and that was not what I was talking about. One of the problems with collective improvisation, as far as I'm concerned, is that people who use anarchy or collective improvisation will interpret that to mean 'Now I can kill you'; and I'm saying, wait a minute! OK, it's true that in a free-thought zone, you can think of anything you want to think, but that was not the optimum state of what I had in mind when I said, let's have freedom. I thought any transformational understanding of so-called freedom would imply that you would be free to find those disciplines that suited you, free to understand your own value systems; but not that you would just freak out because 'the teacher's not there.' The teacher is still there! 
It's one thing to talk about the post-Ayler cycle with respect to the events which took place in the first year, the second year. . . but if you look back at the last twenty years, what has freedom meant? For a great many people, so-called freedomis more limiting than bebop, because in bebop you can play a ballad or change the tempo or the key. So-called freedom has not helped us as a family, as a collective, to understand responsibility better. Only the master musicians, the ones who really understand what they were doing and who did their homework, have been able to generate forward motion. So the notion of freedom that was being perpetrated in the sixties might not have been the healthiest notion. I say 'healthiest notion' because I'm not opposed to the state of freedom; I believe that with correct information and an understanding of respect for humanity, human beings can rise to their potential. But fixed and open variables, with the fixed variables functioning from fundamental value systems--that's what freedom means to me."
-Anthony Braxton (From Graham Lock, Forces in Motion: Anthony Braxton and the Meta-Reality of Creative Music (London: Quartet, 1988), p240

Three Box-Sets (22 Discs) Of Anthony Braxton
A Gluttonous Serving Of Freer Than FreeAsFuck Free-Jazz
Representing Exactly A Diddle Of Braxton's Career 

Box-Sets Included In Post (DL Links & External Reviews):

  • The Complete Arista Recordings of Anthony Braxton (Mosaic, 2008) 8xCD Box Set; FLAC
  • Anthony Braxton - 9 Compositions (Iridium, 2006) 9xCD Box-Set, VBR (V0)
  • Anthony Braxton - 23 Standards (Quartet) (Leo, 2003) 4xCD Box-Set, VBR (~215)

When most think of Braxton, the first associations are often things like difficult… brilliant but academic… cerebral… unemotional… and so on. “The Einstein of theoretical jazz physics,” in Howard Hampton’s phrase. His catalog is so dense and mystifying that when you get going in the investigation, small holes reveal such an exciting world. It's a riddle that keeps on expanding in complexity and wonder. Braxton's music is tough music because there's really not much like it. It is to be reckoned with alone. The brain is initially overtimulated, a feeling which intensifies until a brief maniacal plateau of crossed wires and shorted circuts -- then just as the body does in extremity, cognitive shock sets in taking form through a state of radical acceptance. This is pure music, pure experience, pure phenomena.

(IF A LINK DOESN'T WORK, PLEASE DIRECT A HOLLER MY WAY. I have been experimenting with new file-hosting services of late, hoping to find one that can support the large files I so much desire to share, with a price of zero, and no inconvenience for those who chose to sample this music.)

The Complete Arista Recordings of Anthony Braxton
(Mosaic, 2008) 8xCD Box Set; FLAC

Absorb Every Molecule Of It!
Direct Downloads! No Annoying Ad Filled Site!
CD 1 ~~ CD 2 ~~ CD 3 ~~ CD 4 ~~ CD 5 ~~ CD 6 ~~ CD 7 ~~ CD 8

Albums included in this box-set:
Arista AL-4032 New York, Fall 1974 – 1 LP
Arista AL-4064 Five Pieces, 1975 – 1 LP
Arista AL-4080 Creative Orchestra Music 1976 - 1 LP
Arista AL-4101 Duets 1976 – 1 LP
Arista AB-4181 For Trio – 1 LP
Arista AL-5002 The Montreux/Berlin Concerts – 2 LPs
Arista A2L-8602 Alto Saxophone Improvisation 1979 – 2 LPs
Arista A3L-8900 For Four Orchestras – 3 LPs
Arista AL-9559 For Two Pianos – 1 LP

"The statement in the music, beyond the music, is that the Arista years and its fruits on record amply embodied a satisfying American flowering of Braxton’s work, in the “jazz” plot of its garden...but in doing so, and moving through flower to airborne pollen, it also showed that moment to be as evanescently improvised, as idiosyncratically composed, as the music itself."
-Mike Heffley, liner notes

"Eight CDs represents a big undertaking both for listeners and Mosaic, the label that wrote the book on boxed sets and started releasing them when they were vinyl-only. For Anthony Braxton, though, eight CDs is a mere drop in the bucket. But what a drop it is, compiling six fruitful years that yielded nine groundbreaking albums, none of which have been available in any form since their initial release.
Complete Arista Recordings also inadvertently pays tribute to a period of the music industry that will never be seen again. In 1974, Braxton was courted by two American record labels. The composer chose Clive Davis’ nascent Arista over Atlantic since he would be working with Steve Backer, the former head of Impulse, who understood the music, and Michael Cuscuna, now of Mosaic and other reissue projects. It was a wise choice, as they gave him carte blanche to record everything from his quartet to double-albums of solo saxophone and, in a move that must’ve sent the bean counters through the roof, a three-record composition involving four 39-piece orchestras. That kind of investment in an artist’s vision is long gone, at least as far as major labels are concerned.
The set retains the running order of the original albums, sequencing them by their original release dates. It frequently contrasts with the order of recording dates but it makes sense in terms of material.
While he may deserve a description like avant-garde, Braxton repeatedly opened his early albums with interpretations of jazz classics or spins on them, offering a bridge from tradition into his musical brain. Disc one opens with “Opus 23B,” an atonal reworking of Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee.” The lack of a tonal center doesn’t make it any less accessible, and the Parker reference is easily overlooked in favor of the bullet-spray of notes delivered at a jaw dropping tempo that even causes both Braxton and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler to stumble a little as they play. It’s the perfect leadoff track, creating excitement for what will follow.
The quartet sessions with Wheeler (replaced later by trombonist George Lewis), bassist Dave Holland and drummers Jerome Cooper or Barry Altschul have a free-bop feel to them. But Braxton was just as likely to have bass and drums walk as he would have them play rigid, one-to-the-bar notes during a piece. Likewise, “Opus 37,” with three-quarters of what would become the World Saxophone Quartet, is built around an abrasive repetition of dissonant quarter notes.
Later sessions also cast gazes backward, such as when Braxton and pianist Muhal Richard Abrams cover Eric Dolphy’s “Miss Ann” and Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” between contemporary art music pieces and contrabass sax/piano romps. On his own, Braxton attempts “Giant Steps,” Lionel Hampton’s “Red Top,” and Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty” in between sound explorations on his alto.
The Creative Orhestra Music 1976 album transfers Braxton’s approach successfully to a larger group, which at times sounds like a hybrid of Count Basie and Sun Ra (“Opus 51”) and, in one of the box’s most bizarre moments, starts like a John Philip Sousa march that quickly shifts into atonal frenzy. For Trio marks the beginning of the extended pieces. This album features Braxton in two 20-minute tracks with Douglas Ewart and Henry Threadgill on one; Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell on the other. The multi-instrumentalists blow reeds, bang percussion and vocalize in a way that makes sparseness as much a part of the music as the sound.
That openness in the music continues in the final large pieces of the box, although this element sometimes worked against it. For Two Pianos has Frederic Rzweski and Ursula Oppens performing Braxton’s work on the keyboard, with occasional melodica and zither sounds keeping the texture moving. For Four Orchestras is impressive in its size and length (nearly two hours), but it relies on quick bursts of music or aimless long notes that never develop beyond their exposition.While this set might be an investment, anyone looking for a basic profile of Braxton’s music would be more than satiated with this set. Hearing it all together goes a long way toward profiling the various elements that factor into his compositions and provides a great appreciation for one of the country’s boldest composers."
-Milke Shanley (

Anthony Braxton - 9 Compositions
(Iridium, 2006) 9xCD Bos-Set, VBR (V0)
Commit To Summering With Its Parents
CD 1~~ CD 2 ~~ CD 3 ~~ CD 4 ~~ CD 5 ~~ CD 6~~ CD 7~~ CD 8 ~~ CD 9

Track Listing:
Disc 1 - Composition No. 350 (70:10)
Disc 2 - Composition No. 351 (69:26)
Disc 3 - Composition No. 352 (67:36)
Disc 4 - Composition No. 353 (63:58)
Disc 5 - Composition No. 354 (62:49)
Disc 6 - Composition No. 355 (63:51)
Disc 7 - Composition No. 356 (59:51)
Disc 8 - Composition No. 357 (63:16)
Disc 9 - Composition No. 358 (61:46)

From: "Anthony Braxton: True Mathematics"  -David R. Adler
"In sum, first-species GTM is based on an unvarying—indeed, trance-inducing—quarter-note pulse. The later species inject “imbalances,” or rhythmic interruptions, into the pulse. Rhythmic subgroups—triplets, quintuplets and so forth—begin to ornament the foundational line, ultimately obscuring it altogether. “The move from third species to accelerator class was intense,” says Taylor Ho Bynum. “All of a sudden the most complex rhythmic manifestations of the line had completely taken over.” And Braxton wasn’t finished. Open an “accelerator whip” score and you’ll see strings of 16th and 32nd notes grouped in patterns of 9 over 1, 13 over 2, 17 over 2, 20 over 2, stretching for page after page without bar lines. “Accelerator whip is more extreme in terms of material mass,” Braxton explains. “There are much larger groupings—as extreme as it was possible to notate and have some fun with.”
All nine Iridium compositions begin with the full band playing a forceful thematic statement; a ragged dissonance of bottomless complexity. What begins as a teetering mass of information soon moves into improvisational flux. Over the ensuing hour, the players interface with the written score, and each other, in any number of ways. This, in a sense, has always been Braxton’s approach: blurring the notation/improvisation boundary, using notation not simply as a “recall” device but also a “generating” device. There are antecedents, to be sure, in 20th-century classical music. But Braxton’s marriage of what he calls “trans-African” and “trans-European” aesthetics, or “mutable” and “stable” logics, is unique.
In these final GTM works, Braxton pursues a “multi-hierarchic” model in which the players can break into subgroups to play any of several “secondary” compositions appended at the rear of a given score, or even bring in “tertiary material”—segments of older Braxton compositions to be interpolated at will. The note heads in the polyrhythmic rows appear in pink, green, orange, blue and other colors—code for various timbres, inflections and other information. At times the players will land on “freeze frames”: spaces boxed off in black marker where the ledger lines suddenly disappear and the notation becomes more ethereal. As Bynum puts it, GTM “turns the traditional hierarchical orchestra model on its head. You improvise in a compositional manner; you apply composed materials in an improvisational manner; at all times one’s creativity is fully engaged.” Braxton refers to the music as “trans-temporal”: He turns over an hourglass to start the set; the music ends when the last grains have filtered through. The entire process is something like a game.
A game, it should be noted, that requires no small amount of endurance—Jessica Pavone had her elbow in a brace after the Iridium gig and jokingly dubbed her ailment “Braxtonitis.” Trans-temporal music can also be demanding for the listener, or to use Braxton’s preferred term, “the friendly experiencer.” Best to give oneself over to “a sense of meditative timelessness,” to borrow Jonathan Piper’s phrase. Dave Douglas, in his booklet entry, describes a “feeling of permanence” that came over him during the Iridium sets. There certainly are moments of great luminosity and power, but also times when the methodology seems to eclipse the music. If the Iridium collection lacks anything, it is the sheer variety heard on other recent Braxton boxes, particularly Six Compositions (GTM) 2001 (Rastascan) or 4 Compositions (Ulrichsberg) 2005 Phonomanie VII (Leo). The latter includes the first documented performance of Braxton’s Diamond Curtain Wall music, a new prototype involving the SuperCollider computer language.
“The Ghost Trance Musics are totally finished,” Braxton declares, although he will continue to draw on the GTM archive in its entirety for live performances. In 2007 he returned to Iridium with a smaller, seven-piece group, a decision driven in part by logistics—he needed room onstage this time for his contrabass and bass saxophones.

Anthony Braxton - 23 Standards (Quartet) 
(Leo, 2003) 4xCD Box-Set, VBR ~215

Get It!!
CD 1 ~~ CD 2 ~~ CD 3 ~~ CD 4

From Leo Records:
The 4-CD set (4.5 hours of music) was recorded during a series of concerts in 2003 by the new Braxton's quartet with Kevin O'Neil on guitar, Kevin Norton on percussion, Andy Eulau on bass and Anthony Braxton on saxophone. The set is destined to make jazz history not only for Braxton's discovery of the most remarkable guitarist to emerge in a decade, but for its special quality of performing standards in an entirely new way and reinventing the tradition. Braxton's work becomes even more valuable and necessary in view of the forces of reaction in jazz. As Stuart Broomer writes in his remarkable liner notes, while a conservative performer merely echoes and diminishes the tradition, Braxton makes known the social, moral, and historical imperatives that drive this music and are embedded in the tradition. He makes known the spirit of spontaneiety, community, change, freedom, life and creation. He makes it as new and vital as the original forms. "Our thanks, then, to Anthony Braxton. In an era when the jazz past is regularly Bowdlerized, trivialized and travestied — reduced to little more than a marketing plan — Braxton presents it in much of its true potentiality as the authentic discourse of its time, making both the past and the present (even the future) that much richer than it was before". Limited edition of 1000 copies."

Included in this box-set
Disc 1: Crazy Rhythm; Off Minor; Desafinado; 26-1; Why Shouldn't I; Giant Steps.
Disc 2:Tangerine; Black Orpheus; Round Midnight; Ju Ju; After You've Gone.
Disc 3: Everything I Love; I Can't get Started; It's a Raggy Waltz; Countdown; Blue in Green; Beatrice.
Disc 4: Only the Lonely; Recorda Me; Ill Wind; I'll be Easy to Find; Three to Get Ready; Dolphin Dance.


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