* Miles Davis: In Concert: Live At Philharmonic Hall (Columbia/Legacy 2CD)
* Charles Mingus: The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-1965 (d.7) (Mosaic 7CD)
* Sun Ra Quartet: New Steps (Horo 2LP>CDR)
* Sun Ra Quartet: Other Voices, Other Blues (Horo 2LP>CDR)
* Sun Ra Quartet: Media Dreams (Saturn/Art Yard 2CD)
* Sun Ra Quartet: Disco 3000 (Saturn/Art Yard CD)
* Ornette Coleman: Sound Grammar (Phrase Text CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Two Compositions (Orchestra) 2005 (New Braxton House FLAC>CDR)
* Anthony Braxton: GTM (Iridium) 2007 Vol.1 (New Braxton House FLAC>2CDR)
* Anthony Braxton: Quartet (FRM) 2007 Vols.1-4 (New Braxton House FLAC>4CDR)
* Anthony Braxton: Creative Music Orchestra (NYC) 2011 (New Braxton House FLAC>CDR)
* Anthony Braxton: Trio (NYC) 2011 (New Braxton House FLAC>CDR)
* Anthony Braxton: Quartet/Quintet (NYC) 2011 (New Braxton House FLAC>CDR)
* Derek Bailey: Pieces For Guitar (Tzadik CD)
* Billy Cobham: Spectrum (Atlantic LP)
* Daft Punk: Random Access Memories (Columbia 2LP)
* Bob Dylan: Bootleg Series Vol.9: The Whitmark Demos (d.1) (Columbia/Legacy 2CD)
* Grateful Dead: Coliseum, New Haven, CT 1979-10-25 (set 2) (SBD 2CDR
* Grateful Dead: The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA 1979-11-05 (selections) (SBD 2CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Truckin’ Up To Buffalo: July 4, 1989 (GDP/Monterey DVD)
* Love: Love (Epic/Sundazed LP)
* Guided By Voices: The Bears For Lunch (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Guided By Voices: English Little League (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Robert Pollard: Honey Locust Honky Tonk (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Teenage Guitar: Force Fields At Home (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Boards Of Canada: Tomorrow’s Harvest (Warp 2LP)
* Opeth: Heritage (Roadrunner 2LP)
* The Mars Volta: Tremulant EP (Gold Standard Labs CDEP)
* The Mars Volta: De-Loused In The Comatorium (Gold Standard Labs/Universal CD)
* The Mars Volta: Frances The Mute (Gold Star Labs/Universal CD)
* The Mars Volta: “The Widow” (Gold Star Labs/Universal CDEP)
* The Mars Volta: Amputechture (Gold Standard Labs/Universal CD)
* Kylesa: Spiral Shadow (Season of Mist LP)
* Kylesa: Ultraviolet (Season of Mist LP)
* Baroness: Red Album (Relapse CD)†/‡
* Baroness: Yellow & Green (Relapse 2LP)
* Baroness: Live At Maida Vale BBC (BBC/Relapse EP)†/‡
* Intronaut: Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones) (Century Media 2LP)
* Grails: Deep Politics (Temporary Residence 2LP)
* Locrian: Return to Annihilation (Relapse 2-45RPM LP)
* The Sword: Gods Of The Earth (Kemado LP)
* Deafheaven: Sunbather (Deathwish, Inc. 2-45RPM LP)
* Beach House: Bloom (Sub Pop CD)
* Wild Nothing: Nocturne (Captured Tracks CD)
* Wild Nothing: Empty Estates (Captured Tracks CDEP)
It being a long, rainy holiday weekend (with my car in the shop with a broken clutch), I was compelled to stay indoors. Now seemed like a good time to catch up with my subscription to the New Braxton House downloads over at the Tri-Centric Foundation—they were really starting to pile up over the past few months! And it was the perfect soundtrack for a soggy bunch of stay-at-home days.
Anthony Braxton is the Robert Pollard of avant-jazz art music. Braxton has a discography that runs into the hundreds of albums, both as a leader and sideman. And for the past three years, the Tri-Centric Foundation has been releasing monthly downloads of yet more music, most of it dating from the past decade or so—more than fifty CDs—which barely scratches the surface of the man’s output. As with Pollard, I like some things more than others—but it’s always interesting, sonically and conceptually. And the truth is: art is not always about “liking” something and, of anyone I can think of, Braxton most deserves the appellation of artist/genius. Braxton has finally received some long overdue recognition since his 1994 MacArthur grant: this year he was named “Jazz Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts (along with Richard Davis, Keith Jarrett and Jamey Aebersold) and he also received the 2013 Doris Duke Artist Award, which includes a sizable stipend. No doubt every penny will be devoted to getting his most ambitious projects performed and heard—and I can’t wait to hear it.
The most recent downloads from the Tri-Centric Foundation document two concerts at Wesleyan University (where Braxton is the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music) on December 6 and 8, 2007 featuring Braxton’s “Falling River Music.” Like the “Diamond Curtain Wall Music,” the “Falling River” scores are notable for their use of color: brushy strokes of paint, dotted with conventional and wildly unconventional notation. The “Falling River Music” also dispenses with the rhythm section, relying instead on sparse but flexible instrumentation, in this case Erica Dicker on violin, Katie Young on bassoon and Sally Norris on piano. The music is largely improvised, the players subjectively reacting to an optical abstraction yet it still retains a remarkable consistency across the four CDs. Less aggressive than the “Diamond Curtain Wall Music,” lacking as it does the squeal of the laptop or Mary Halvorson’s electric guitar, the “Falling River Music” is still mostly about sound and timbre: the violin scrapes and sings; the bassoon croons, burps and farts; Norris fiddles with the piano’s insides. Meanwhile, Braxton blows on saxophone in his own inimitable way, or lays out completely and lets the textures build and subside. The first set starts out tentatively but gradually gains confidence over the hour-long performance. The ensemble only continues to gel and by the end of the second concert, it sounds like they could go on forever. Braxton’s music has a way of doing that.
The Tri-Centric Foundation is once again changing their membership program in September and will be moving away from the monthly download model. Instead, members donate $100.00 to the foundation, which will entitle you to discounts on limited edition CD box sets, including 4CDs of “Falling River Music” with percussionists Tomas Fujiwara and Tom Rainey and 12 discs of “Diamond Curtain Wall Music” in duos with Erica Dicker, vocalist Kyoko Kitamura and bassoonist Katie Young. Additionally 13 new “bootlegs” will be available to members only and discounts and advance purchasing options for the forthcoming 3CD set of “Echo Echo Mirror House Music” being produced by Firehouse 12.
While I will happily continue to support their endeavors, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. In the beginning, membership cost $7.99 per month, which entitled you to two monthly downloads—a total bargain, no matter how you slice it. Then it changed to $6.99/month but with one monthly download included and all others a la carte at $6.99 each, an arrangement that sometimes doubled the monthly fee. But I was OK with that. Now, as much as I appreciate a nicely produced CD, Braxton’s download program was one I could wholeheartedly support—even though I generally hate the idea of paying for digital files. Given Braxton’s prolific nature, the monthly download (in lossless FLAC format) seems ideal. But, as with many things these days, we are asked to pay more for less—or rather, pay much more for luxury and exclusivity. Well, that’s fine – good for Braxton! But I will miss the continual flow of releases—even if it always takes me a few months to catch up.
What’s unclear is what happens to these forty-something volumes of New Braxton House downloads. Do they disappear after September 1? If so, I recommend everyone who has read this far to get cracking! If you don’t already have this stuff (and you really should), here are some other ones I consider essential:
Fans of Mary Halvorson will want to have Septet (Pittsburgh) 2008 (which I wrote about here) as well as Quartet (Mannheim) 2010 and Trio (NYC) 2011, documenting the wonderfully psychedelic “Diamond Curtain Wall Music.” She also appears on GTM (Iridium) 2007, eight sets of “Accelerated Ghost Trance Music” played by Braxton’s usual band plus a rotating cast of guest musicians like Nicole Mitchell, Kyle Brenders and Matt Bauder. The smaller, seven-to-nine-person ensembles lend a transparency to the textures making these CDs more approachable than the mammoth 12(+1)-tet heard the year before on 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 (Firehouse 12). This is all mind-blowingly great stuff!
There are also a number of Braxton’s large-scale “classical”-type compositions available, such as Two Compositions (New Trumpet Music), Composition No.19 (For 100 Tubas) (!), Composition 30 for solo piano, Two Compositions (Orchestra) 2005 and Creative Music Orchestra (NYC) 2011. Braxton is America’s finest living composer bar none and these are a rare chance to hear why. The heroic performance of "Composition 19" is worth the cost of the subscription alone. Then there’s the really crazy stuff like Echo Echo Mirror House (NYC) 2011, where everyone in the band has an iPod loaded with hundreds of hours of Braxton music, which they play through tiny amplifier, thereby adding further layers to the seeming chaos (see also the recent Victo CD, Septet (Victoriaville) 2011, which presents this stuff in incredibly vivid, ultra-hi-fi sound quality). Then there’s Syntactical Ghost Trance Choir (NYC) 2011, which is just as bizarre as the title implies, and the Pinetop Aerial Quartet, which theatrically combines voice, instruments and movement (and found on Quartet/Quintet (NYC) 2011, which also includes twenty-five blissful minutes of “Falling River Music” with Ingrid Laubrock, Sara Schoenbeck, Renee Baker and Shelley Burgon).
Try as I might, I still have a hard time getting into the early species “Ghost Trance Music” of the late-‘90s and early-‘00s, mostly due to its static rhythmic structures and limited instrumentation—and there’s certainly a lot of that stuff available here. I guess I’ll keep trying. But around 2005, things started to loosen up, thanks to the solidification of a working Sextet with Taylor Ho Bynum, Jessica Pavone, Jay Rozen, Carl Testa and Aaron Siegel. Sextet (Philadelphia) 2005, Sextet (Boston) 2005, Sextet (Molde) 2005 and Sextet (Piacenza) 2007 (the latter two featuring Chris Dahlgren subbing for Carl Testa) are all spectacular performances and recordings. Also, be sure to check out an early “Diamond Curtain Wall” session with Tom Crean on guitar, found on Trio (Wesleyan) 2005. Finally, there are two solo saxophone sets (Solo (Carnegie Hall) 1972 (taken from a bootleg) and the two-disc Solo (Wesleyan) 2005), which offer deep insights into Braxton’s methodology and thinking.
Heck, like I said, the man is a bona fide genius and everything he’s ever done is worth hearing. I’m definitely looking forward to whatever comes next. Viva Braxton!
SHAMELESS PLUG DEPT.
Do you like “out” jazz? Check out my CD, Rodger Coleman & Sam Byrd: "Indeterminate (Improvisations for Piano and Drums)" by clicking the link below. Thank you for your support!