Saturday, November 08, 2008

Anthony Braxton - The Complete Arista Recordings, Disc One (Mosaic, 2008)

It's fascinating today to think that at one time, major pop music labels actually had divisions that recorded experimental modern jazz musicians. The Freedom division of Arista had one of the best catalogs, recording a wide variety of musicians, including multi-reedist and composer Anthony Braxton. What is fascinating about this opening disc, is that considering Braxton's fearsome reputation, much of the music found here is fairly accessible free-bop, with Braxton's alto playing showing a great debt to Eric Dolphy. Whether in collective jazz improvisation on "Opus 23B" and "Opus 23D" or completely composed on "Opus 23C", there's nothing here to scare a savvy listener, and much to enjoy. Things get a little strange on "Opus 38A" which has Braxton improvising in tandem with a Moog synthethysizer in a Sun Ra like electronic experiment, that sounds a little dated to today's ears. "Opus 37" finds him in what would become the World Saxophone Quartet for some windy blowing. "Opus 23G" has some sweet free alto improvising in a great quartet that includes Kenny Wheeler on trumpet, Dave Holland on bass and Barry Altschul on drums. There's a link to some of the liner note material that writer Mike Heffley had to leave out of the extensive booklet that accompanies the set.
Anthony Braxton -

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