Friday, May 23, 2008

Re-discovering Braxton

If you're like me, you probably have chunks of your vinyl collection that you haven't gotten around to replacing with digital copies or updating to reflect re-packaging, re-mastering, etc. For me, it's Anthony Braxton. There were holes in my collection to begin with, largely because my discovery of Braxton coincided with the years when I worked in campus radio and had ready access to a lot of his prime work and ample time to play it. And once you're behind in collecting Braxton, there's a lot of room to make up. So, I've determined to make it a priority for this year.

This was spurred by hearing him talk and play at last fall's Guelph Jazz Festival and Colloquium, and also by the flood of new Braxton releases that have landed on my desk lately. It has been a particularly rich time for Braxton recordings – both current and a few years old. I'm presently reviewing two new Victo releases – featuring his Diamond Curtain Wall Trio and the other his 12+1tet – and on their way to me are a handful of his Black Saint releases and the lauded Quartet (Coventry) 1985 on Leo, which somehow has eluded my listening all these years. I'm looking forward to this with more anticipation than I've felt in a long time.

One thing that strikes me listening to new Braxton is that he has recently employed two of the most-interesting guitarists around: Mary Halvorson and Kevin O'Neil. Both of them play with enormous texture and sonic breadth, and sound quite unlike the prevailing jazz guitarists of the past 15 years.

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