March 12, 2011

Playlist Week of 3-12-11

Anthony Braxton Septet (Pittsburgh) 2008

* Biber: The Rosary Sonatas (Manze/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)†
* J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations (Hewitt): Royal Festival Hall, London 4-29-09 (FM CDR)
* J.S. Bach: Solo & Double Violin Concertos (AAM/Manze/Podger) (Harmonia Mundi SACD)
* Antheil: Ballet Mécanique, etc. (Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orch.) (Naxos CD)
* Poulenc: Works for Piano (Parkin) (d.2) (Chandos 3CD)
* Sun Ra with Wilbur Ware: House of Ra, Philadelphia, PA 1973 (AUD>FM CDR)
* Sun Ra & His Mythic Science Arkestra: The Paris Tapes 1971 (Art Yard/Kindred Spirits 2CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Sextet (Philadelphia) 2005 (New Braxton House FLAC>2CDR)
* Anthony Braxton: Septet (Pittsburgh) 2008 (New Braxton House FLAC>CDR)
* Anthony Braxton Diamond Curtain Wall Trio: hr-Sendesaal, Frankfurt, Germany 10-30-08 (FM CDR)
* Henry Threadgill & Zooid: Folkets Hus, Umea, Sweden 10-25-08 (FM CDR)
* William Parker/In Order To Survive: The Peach Orchard (AUM Fidelity 2CD)
* Matthew Shipp: Art Of The Improviser (Thirsty Ear 2CD)
* Mat Maneri: Blue Deco (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Weasel Walter/Mary Halvorson/Peter Evans: Electric Fruit (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Herbie Hancock/Future 2 Future: Columbia Halle, Berlin, Germany 11-27-01 (FM 2CDR)
* Tortoise: Beacons of Ancestorship (Thrill Jockey)†/‡
* Scanner with The Post Modern Jazz Quartet: Blink of An Eye (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On (Motown/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab SACD)
* Marvin Gaye: Let’s Get It On (Motown/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab SACD)
* Parliament: Live: P. Funk Earth Tour (Casablanca CD)
* P. Funk All Stars: Urban Dancefloor Guerillas (CBS CD)
* The Beatles: The Beatles [a/k/a The White Album] (2009 stereo) (Apple/EMI 2CD)
* Grateful Dead: Music Hall, Boston, MA 12-01-73 (SBD 4CDR)
* David Crosby: If I Could Only Remember My Name… (Atlantic DVD-A)
* Chicago: VIII (Columbia LP)
* Chicago: X (Columbia LP)
* Chicago: XI (Columbia LP)
* U2: The Joshua Tree (Deluxe Edition) (d.1) (Island 2CD)†/‡
* Beck: Sea Change (Geffen/Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs CD)†/‡
* Robert Pollard: Space City Kicks (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Lifeguards: Waving At The Astronauts (Serious Business LP)
* Tool: Lateralus: (Volcano CD)†
* A Perfect Circle: Mer De Noms (Virgin CD)
* A Perfect Circle: Thirteenth Step (Virgin CD)



I know I’m an African-American, and I know I play the saxophone, but I’m not a jazz musician. I’m not a classical musician either. My music is like my life: It’s in between these worlds.
–Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton is, in my estimation, America’s greatest living composer—and the most underappreciated and misunderstood. As he acknowledges above, part of the problem is that he is black man who plays the saxophone. In the cultural hierarchy we inhabit, he is ipso facto a “jazz musician,” with every negative stereotype the term entails. This not only reflects the deep-seated racism of our culture, but also a concomitant disdain for the instrument itself, a late-19th Century invention which has always been treated as a bastard “band instrument” by the classical music establishment ever since. Of course, Mr. Braxton plays the entire family of saxophone instruments, from contrabass to sopranino and anyone who has listened to more than a handful of his records will have to acknowledge that his music, for the most part, has more to do with so-called “classical” music than what is commonly thought of as “jazz.” But, as a black man with a bunch of saxophones, his work has never been taken seriously as “Art Music” by the classical music establishment, who narrowly defines the term. Of course, Mr. Braxton does not make it easy to understand what he’s up to. While he has written about his music extensively in liner notes, essays, and multi-volume monographs, he insists on opaque, hyper-academic linguistic constructions and inscrutable graphic representations which only serve to obscure his meaning from casual observers. This is, of course, intentional and part of its appeal to initiates, who aspire (or pretend) to understand. There is an element of willful Sun Ra-esque absurdity about his public persona that will forever prevent over-serious people from ever taking it seriously. And that’s too bad, because the proof is in the music itself, which is always at least interesting and often profoundly moving in a way that neither “jazz” nor “classical” music ever could be within their culturally-imposed restrictions. Braxton is an important composer because he occupies a place outside those arbitrary limitations and makes music that is, like he says, like life itself, “in between.”

While Braxton has made hundreds of recordings over the course of his five-decade career, most are on tiny labels produced in vanishingly small editions, making them almost impossible to find and further marginalizing him from mainstream culture. However, all this is about to be remedied with the ambitious launch of the Tri-Centric Foundation website, considerably raising Mr. Braxton’s online profile and making his music widely available to any “friendly experiencers” who might be interested. Hooray! The long out-of-print Braxton House recordings from the 1990s are available there for download in FLAC and MP3 formats and the New Braxton House label promises two releases per month of previously unreleased music. To celebrate the unveiling, they are offering a FREE download of Septet (Pittsburgh) 2008 for a limited time, just for setting up an account. A magnificent live recording of Braxton’s recent “Accelerated Ghost Trance Music,” it features his core group of devoted young musicians: Taylor Ho Bynum on trumpet and other brass instruments; Mary Halvorson on electric guitar; Jessica Pavone on violin, viola and electric bass; Jay Rozen on tuba; Carl Testa on acoustic bass and bass clarinet; and Aaron Siegel on drums, percussion and vibraphone. Impossible to describe, Braxton’s late-period music is unlike any other you're ever heard and rewards repeated, concentrated listens. I highly recommend everyone reading this post to immediately grab this gem and have a listen for themselves. You won’t regret it! And it just might change your life!

The price per download is a little on the high side, in my opinion, but subscriptions can be purchased for $12+1 per month (afficianadoes will appreciate the humor) which entitles you to two free downloads and 10% off on catalog items, a reasonably good deal; moreover, it all goes to support a very worthy cause. Of course, I’ve gleefully signed up and am digging Sextet (Philadelphia) 2005, another fantastic live recording from this most fertile era in Braxton’s long career. Future releases will include: Three Orchestras (GTM) 1998; Solo (Allentown) 1990; Composition 19 (For 100 Tubas) 2006; and Sextet (Boston) 2005. I can’t wait. Just to sweeten the deal, they’ve also set up a “bootleg page,” offering FREE downloads of various verité recordings which have circulated in hardcore collector’s circles. Naturally, I have most of these already, but I applaud the Tri-Centric Foundation for making them available to casual listeners. Of those available so far, I would heartily recommend Quartet (New York) 1993, an excellent soundboard recording from The Knitting Factory of the so-called “classic quartet” with Marilyn Crispell on piano, Mark Dresser on bass and Gerry Hemingway on drums. This would be an excellent place for the merely curious to begin investigating Mr. Braxton’s oeuvre.

There’s also a long video segment from Braxton’s first Sonic Genome Project at Wesleyan University in 2003, an eight-hour, hundred-musician extravaganza that must be seen to be believed. The site also promises to make available more videos and writings to round out the experience. My dearest hope is they will eventually upload scores and composition notes to the site, to enable the fullest possible understanding of Braxton’s work. Regardless, the Tri-Centric Foundation is providing a long-overdue and most welcome service and is worthy of support. Due to unexpectedly high traffic, the site was experiencing a number of technical difficulties in its first week of operation, but that's a good thing and all seems to be working smoothly now. So, by all means, go check it out!

1 comment:

Sam said...

Nice write-up, Rodger! The new site is indeed very exciting. I'm wanting to dig into those old Braxton House discs....

In the meanwhile, here's my list from last week:

Playlist 2011-03-14:

*Baroque Fever: 2010-05-15 BBC Radio 3
*Anthony Braxton: Septet (Pittsburgh) 2008
*James Cicatko: web selections (mp3)
*Miles Davis & John Coltrane: Live in Stockholm 1960
*Miles Davis Quintet: 1967-11-06 Paris (CDR)
*Coleman Hawkins: The Bebop Years (disc 2)
*Medeski Martin & Wood: The Dropper
*Charles Mingus: 1964-04-28 Stuttgart (boot LP > CDR)
*Ikue Mori: 2009-01-25 The Stone, NYC (CDR)
*New Loft: 2011-02-23 "Ask Any Waiter" (wav)
*New What: 2011-03-03 Bon Air Community Center, Richmond VA (wav)
*Bud Powell: The Amazing Bud Powell Vol. 1
*Sun Ra and His Space Arkestra: What Planet Is This? (disc 1)
*Trio M: 2009-07-01 Small's, NYC (CDR) disc 2
*Animal Collective: 2008-07-19 Pitchfork Music Festival (CDR)
*Beatles: The Act You've Known for All These Years (web remixes) (CDR)
*Circulatory System: Signal Morning
*Dr. John, the Night Tripper: Gris-Gris
*Egg: Egg
*Funkadelic: Uncle Jam Wants You (selections)
*Grateful Dead: 1974-05-12 Nevada (CDR) selections
*Grateful Dead: 1974-06-20 Atlanta (CDR) selections
*Jimi Hendrix: Hendrix in the West
*Jimi Hendrix: Valleys of Neptune
*High Llamas: Buzzle Bee
*Isley Brothers: It's Your Thing: The Story of the Isley Brothers (disc 2)
*Love: Da Capo
*Love: Forever Changes
*Olivia Tremor Control: Music From the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle
*Roling Stones: Let It Bleed

Reading List 2011-03-14:

*Crumb, R. The Sweeter Side of R. Crumb (started)
*Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights (transl. Malcolm C. Lyons) Vol. 1 (in progress)
*Esslemont, Ian C. Return of the Crimson Guard (in progress)
*Gifford, Don, and Robert J. Seldman. Ulysses Annotated, rev. and expanded ed. (in progress)
*Joyce, James. Ulysses (reread/in progress)
*Lileks, James. Gastroanomalies: Questionable Culinary Creations from the Golden Age of American Cookery (in progress)
*Segar, E.C. The Complete E.C. Segar Popeye Vol. 8 (Dailies 1932-1933) (in progress)