No Cover: Anthony Braxton
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Tri-Centric Modeling: Past, Present and Future
Legendary experimental jazz musician, composer, and multi-hyphenate Anthony Braxton, was honored last week on his 65th birthday. The two-night celebration, produced by the non-profit Tri-Centric Foundation, featured an array of contemporary jazz music’s leading lights, including John Zorn, Steve Coleman, Dave Douglas and Nicole Mitchell. “If it weren’t for Anthony Braxton,” exclaimed a clearly humbled Zorn said from the stage, “we all wouldn’t be standing here.”
Beyond a prevailing sentiment of gratitude, the sounds heard at New York City’s Le Poisson Rouge on the tribute’s first evening reflected Braxton’s kaleidoscopic and prolific muse. The disparate and heady sounds ranged from avant-garde electronic music and foot-stomping horns to quiet brass duets and sonically adventurous large ensembles.
The celebration’s highlights (of which there were many) came when Braxton himself graced the stage with his Anthony Braxton’s 12+2tet and with two unexpected cameos: an impromptu saxophone jam with longtime collaborator, the electronic composer Richard Teitlebaum; and another with the former Anthony Braxton Quartet featuring pianist Marilyn Crispell, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Gerry Hemingway.
Just in case you missed these historic moments, full streams of the honoree's performances are below.
BEFORE YOU PRESS PLAY:
Hometown: Middletown, CT
The Facts: As one might expect from a philosopher, academic, former professional chess player, and MacArthur genius grant recipient, Anthony Braxton’s five-decade jazz music career is filled with groundbreaking ideas. He has composed for four orchestras, a hundred tubas, and a 35-act opera; published a three volume 1,600-page treatise (“Tri-Axium Writings”); and conducted explorations into the trance music traditions of Native Americans, Africans, Europeans and Sufis (“Ghost Trance Music”). He is also an early member of and an important figure in Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. He currently performs with the 12+2tet, a community of like-minded players, and teaches at Wesleyan University.
A highly experimental 14-piece jazz orchestra filled with woodwinds, horns and strings that create sounds ranging from cacophony to more structured but dissonant group dynamics played by constantly morphing duos, trios, quartets, quintets and beyond. The ensemble uses hand signals throughout the performance to cue changing music patterns that could prompt a bassoon and saxophone to make synchronized staccato blasts or a trilling vibraphone to do battle with a bleating saxophone. Tension-filled passages give way to barely audible breaths or a full sonic maelstrom.
Pianist Marilyn Crispell, bassist Mark Dresser, drummer Gerry Hemingway with Anthony Braxton on sax:
One of the celebratory evening’s most exciting moments came when Braxton joined his former quartet. The experimental jazz group is considered one of Braxton’s finest groups and proof of that claim comes when the foursome launches into a high-octane interpolation of John Coltrane’s “Impressions” with Braxton’s exhilarating horn runs leading the charge.
Richard Teitelbaum With Anthony Braxton:
After Richard Teitelbaum explained the roots of his 41-year friendship (they met in a muddy Belgian cow pasture), and music collaboration (ten albums together) with Anthony Braxton, the evening’s honoree spontaneously jumped on stage with his alto sax in hand. The ensuing highly abstract set was based around Teitelbaum’s heavily processed electronic sounds that often seemed to mimic sounds of the natural world with facsimiles of raindrops, crickets and gale force winds. Braxton gracefully complimented these abstractions; and at other times completely stole the spotlight.
He Said, She Said: "The avant-garde composer and multireedist Anthony Braxton had plenty of words for his admirers at Le Poisson Rouge on Friday night, when it was officially his turn to take the stage. He talked about the striving of noncommercial artists. He referred to “geopolitical dynamics,” adding that the world was still full of “men and women of goodwill.” He expressed appreciation for the costume splendor of Lady Gaga. And finally he struck a note of retirement-party humor: “If you have to be 65, this is the best way to do it.”….the festival gathered a marvelous cohort of his protégés and peers, outlining something like a living index of contemporary improvised music." Nate Chinen -- New York Times, June 21, 2009
"I'd like to say something about Anthony Braxton: [scats] "Dut dut dut dut dut — duh ..." My man, Braxton, where you at? This guy means so much to us. It's a pleasure to play in tribute to you — absolute pleasure. I've been following you for years, ever since before I wasn't born. ... And then I read a book — I think it was Graham Lock, Forces in Motion? Your ideas blew me away; everything you talked about blew me away. All of the questions you didn't answer also blew me away — there was a lot of stuff you wouldn't say to him, so I was determined to find out for myself, which I still have yet to do. The second I met Jonathan [Finlayson, trumpeter, with whom Coleman performed], I told him about you and your whole crew. And we're just honored to be a part of this. What can I say? If it wasn't for you, we wouldn't be here." Steve Coleman, saxophonist/composer, from the le Poisson Rouge stage, June 18, 2010.
Beyond Quantum (Tzadik) 2008
New Braxton House: free download available (7/8/2010) of "Septet (Pittsburgh) 2008".
1) Anthony Braxton’s 12+2tet: Group Composition #361
2) The Anthony Braxton Quartet: Improvisation
3) Richard Teitelbaum With Anthony Braxton: Improvisation