Anthony Braxton – The Complete Braxton 1971 DBL LP

Anthony Braxton-the complete Braxton 71

An excellent, highly balanced equilibrium into one of Braxton’s greatest phases. Through the early 70’s he dispensed a slew of brilliant records for Arista, backed frequently by the awesome finesse from rhythm-section Dave Holland & Barry Altschul, also regularly joined Kenny Wheeler on trumpet. Braxton’s phenomenal technique, smouldering soloing capacity & highly intricate, if not hifalutin, compositional directive is superbly relayed through these eight pieces capturing a snap-shot of his many miens. What does that entail exactly? Well, there is the Hard Bop/Avant-Swing that ambulates between what could perhaps be considered a straighter grounding & a much more unhinged & orderless Avant-Jazz diameter. Often rich in compositional structure (but definitely agitating & resisting within or indeed on the peripherals of this framework with more chaotic & disordered fracturing) the motion provides an excellent firma for Braxton & his crews expressive soloing & improvisations, which can be fairly controlled to totally & utterly riotous, generally with one member churning out the flamboyancy & floridity whilst the accomplices maintain the signature. Next is Braxton’s super complex & rigorous composition pieces, manifesting here most clearly in a hurtling duet with Chick Corea on piano. Braxton produced arguably the most demanding & ornate compositions for the time if you ask me, in high numbers with sprawling changes & progressions boasting incredible results & virtuosic achievement. Some of these recordings can seem pompous &/or excessively technical & somewhat sterile/academic (for me at least) but all scream ingenuity & massive skill. This particular one with Corea is a real screamer, firing past like volleys of birds in full flight. Corea sounds like he is hanging on by the suede of his shoes…only just! We also have the ultra Flot with “Tuba Realization”…comes across like a sound test for a fog-horn testing facility. Loads of space, very little action, clearly works for some. This is much more in the “sound” dimension, where any sense of musicality is somewhat relinquished or massively transferred. “noise” generally has a lot more energy & commotion which denotes movement…this is much more opaque & underwhelming, for the uber-muso-cognoscenti & musical-maths coenobites I guess? Another extraordinary piece here has Braxton playing four Soprano sax sections as an amalgam-overdub. It’s pretty effing breath-taking, a wonderfully intense & impassioned apotheosis of sound & vigour. There are still more nuances & variations at play on this selection of recordings. In many ways, the whole sequence seems like an extremely phrenic take on composed/enraged – slow/fast – contrived/improvised – soft/hard & the myriad of degrees & dualities between them. Getting too analytical now perhaps. Braxton’s work stimulates a lot of chat, which is great & I am a participant in this, but ultimately this is totally secondary to the music/form itself which transcends all the clap-trap (well, at least in theory). I have tons of Braxton’s work, but this DBL LP is one of my favourites & his most direct. If you are new to Braxton, I think it’s an extremely canny entrance into his realms with good coverage of his variegated styles, instrumentation & approaches.

Rekd: 1971

Label: Arista/Freedom