Sunday, January 15, 2012

Anthony Braxton

Listening to Anthony Braxton recordings is a little like watching Doctor Who.  The Tardis door opens on to anything from a Victorian parlor to a garden full of fauna from another galaxy.  It's fair to warn you that, with Braxton, you get more of the second than the first.  The vast majority of Braxton's recordings are very challenging jazz compositions with titles like 'Opus 23J' or 'Composition No.114 (+108a)'. 

I am confused by a lot of this work, but when I get Braxton I find his work very gratifying.  I am playing a couple of Braxton interpretations of other composers work.  'You Stepped Out of a Dream' is a duet with bass boss Dave Holland.  It is a fantastic display of Braxton's talent.  I have it from the box set The Complete Arista Recordings of Anthony Braxton.  It is from Five Pieces (1975) which also features Barry Altschul on drums and Kenny Wheeler on trumpet and flugelhorn. 

I also added 'Miss Ann', an Eric Dolphy composition, originally from Duets 1976.  This pairs Braxton with Muhal Richard Abrams.  

If you only had two Braxton recordings, I would recommend first the two disc The Charlie Parker Project (1995).  Here's the lineup:
I've had 'Dewey Square' playing but I just replaced it with 'Yardbird Suite'.  I don't know Misha Mengelberg, but her  his playing is magnificent.  Intrepid reader Jason corrects me below regarding Misha Mengelberg

The second album I would recommend is Six Monk Compositions (1987).  Here is the lineup:

This might be my single favorite cover of Monk compositions.  I have worshiped at the Church of Waldron for a long time now.  I have 'Four in One' playing. 


  1. FYI - Misha is a him.

  2. Jason: thanks for the correction. Any comments on my review?

  3. A bit of grad-school chauvinism: Paul Smoker set things afire at the U. Of Iowa. After the first chair trumpet of the Tri-City Symphony, a U. of Iowa faculty member, died in his hotel room one concert weekend, Paul filled in for a time. He has received high critical praise for his work, but never gets quite the attention he deserves.

  4. David: that is so cool! I don't have a clear impression of Paul Smoker, except for the recording mentioned above. I can well believe that he is one more jazz genius who was unsung. I am going to have to hunt down some more Smoker.