Aug 30, 2016
What seems a lifetime ago, I had the opportunity to serve on a panel to award grant money from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts to musical applicants. My group reviewed instrumental music, and one of the members of the panel was none other than Anthony Braxton. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, Mr. Braxton is one of the foremost composers and performers of avant-garde jazz, opera and instrumental music of the past sixty years.
Mr. Braxton was at that time serving a as professor at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, so his inclusion in the Commission’s deliberations was fortuitous. I could not have asked for a more polite, warm and open person with whom to spend an afternoon, and despite the huge gap in knowledge between himself and the rest of the panel, he generously acknowledged our opinions and was patient in explaining his views.
Now just past 70 years old, Mr. Braxton has recorded hundreds of albums during his career. From his time at the AACM in Chicago, to his quartet collaborations with the likes of Chick Corea, Kenny Wheeler, Sam Rivers and Dave Holland (Circle; Conference of the Birds), to Creative Orchestra Music, “Ghost Trance Music,” Trillian Opera and other large and small group improvisations; Mr. Braxton has eschewed any sort of genre or characterization for his daring and challenging music.
As a way of exploring his music, most notably his post-1980 compositions and recordings, trumpeter-composer Nate Wooley has devoted the latest issue of his on-line publication, Sound American to Anthony Braxton. Essays written by the foremost scholars and performers of these compositions have made contributions to the site, which you can read now at no cost (although donations are most welcome, and should be made immediately). Complete with streaming samples of Braxton’s music to illustrate the points made by the writers, this is an indispensable guide to those who know and love Anthony Braxton’s work, and a key to entering the world of his sound if you do not.
Nate Wooley has become one of jazz’s latest versions of a Renaissance Man, writing about and composing music; performing with his trumpet as part of the downtown free jazz, experimental, rock, and noise scenes; crating his own Pleasure of the Text music label; and generally standing out as one of today’s great improvisational innovators. He has just released two new CDs, the hypnotizing Argonautica, his tribute to and collaboration with mentor Ron Miles (Firehouse 12 Records), and the ecstatic Seven Storey Mountain Von his own label. A the 2016 FCA Grants to Artists Awards recipient from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts , he was awarded $40,000 to use for future work alongside percussionist William Winant, composer Ashley Fure, and legendary vocalist Joan LaBarbara.
Podcast 548 is my conversation with Nate about Anthony Braxton, Sound American, and his latest (and coming) musical projects. Musical selections include a Braxton quartet recording including Kenny Wheeler, and Dave Holland(“Opus 60“); "Fifth Meeting" from a trio recording with William Parker and Milford Graves called Beyond Quantum; an excerpt from one of his "Echo Echo House" Recordings from Three Compositions, and a brief excerpt from Wooley’s Argonautica.