Thursday, February 2, 2017

For Alto - Anthony Braxton

As of late I've been listening to/downloading a lot of albums that are vinyl only/out of print/impossible to find unless your a rich mother fucker. Plus I believe, that if a collector makes more of the album then what than what the artist makes, its justified to not pay the middle man. Id rather pay $200 to the man himself, than a collector. Among these album, one of the artists is this guy. So i decided to finish this up, because fuck why not. This is one of the first records by Chicago avant/free jazz/free improvisation saxophonist and composer Anthony Braxton. How can you be so vague, and not have a specific number you ask. Well various sites have various dates ranging from 1968-1971 as the release date. Wikipedia alone has the first three years on different pages. It seems it's more likely 1970, but who knows. I know that it was recorded in February 1969 and is the second one recorded so its likely its the second album. But there is no definite proof you know. I found out about this record through one John Zorn, in a documentary he mentioned this record by name. I had to hear it, it was an influence on him. For years this record was mysterious, I couldn't find any zips/rars and I didn't want to by a vinyl I might not like. Even after I got a copy it took a year to listen to it, this is one of those "will it live up to my expectations" records. The first time I heard a note was Christmas Eve 2015. Now it only took me two fucking years to even listen to anymore or do a review of this. Also I believe that I should mention the passing of John Wetton (bassist/vocalist on such great albums as Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Here Come the Warm Jets, Return to FantasyStarless and Bible Black, Red among others I still very much so need to listen to.)
  1. Dedicated to Multi-Instrumentalist Jack Gell: Opening the record we have a 42 second long track, and it starts off well. I mean my hopes were high for this, but this opens quite promising. There are some cool things and it has a cool vibe to it. 
  2. To Composer John Cage: I like the intensity he gives this playing on the song. There are some things that remind me a bit of Ornette's playing, and also maybe Brötz. The only problem I see though is that fact this is solo saxophone and there are no overdubs and it's 72 minutes long. So far I have enjoyed and don't find problem in what I'm hearing, but I don't know if that will last the full 72 minutes. I did smile when I heard him breathing. There are some neat playing though on this cut. Plus at 9 minutes, it's a bit long.
  3. To Artist Murry dePillars: This is a bit of a nice change of pace. While yeah we get the also saxophone again, we hear him hitting the saxophone valves and it's much softer and relaxing than the last. I think this is more effective in what it's trying to do than the last cut was in trying to be punchy. I like the trills and I like the part where it gets very intense and loud to the point of over taking the track. I also am a bit impressed with how he goes back and forth so easily. I mean It might not be that impressive, but I still think it works quite well. Almost as is it's a clam person talking to a pissed off person or trying to talk him down. 
  4. To Pianist Cecil Taylor: I have to make a confession..... I am aware of Cecil. There are some solid moments on The World of Cecil Taylor, but I'm not really a fan. Yeah I mean I have only heard tracks here and there outside of that album and Jazz Composer's Orchestra but I find, when given a full front to back listen, those albums to not keep my interest. Plus I can say there exist albums that do what those two did but much better, anything Alexander van Shlippenbach or Fred Van Hove and Brötz and then for the JCO listen to The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. But I digress, I like the introduction. Feelin' jazzy, but as the track continues I yern for more flavors outside of just saxophone, or one take alto. I mean add some tenor, baritone, bass, soprano, sopranino (I probably spelled that wrong), fuck even a bass clarinet would be a nice change of pace. This is okay, but isn't nothing more than just that.
  5. Dedicated to Ann and Peter Allen: This is pretty chill and I could see this being very effective i there was chimes or other things that add to this feeling of blowing in the wind or floating feeling. It is a weak, as in not forceful, cut and could use that. Actually I could almost imagine this being changed into having some gamelan stuff. To be fair it works as is, but it's 13 minutes long and it's atmosphere is a bit lost by the ending. I do like the clicks of the instrument as if it's like a percussive instrument, but why didn't he use that or other tricks like that more often. Like this could have been edited together or shortened to be made a bit better.
Now on to vinyl 2. Now to be fair I did have to take a break after the first side of the record. The reason being I know I would be far harsher if I didn't and I wouldn't be able to focus as easily.
  1. Dedicated to Susan Axelrod: This isn't that distant from the last track, it's just louder and more audible. I mean I like it but it again goes a bit too long. There are some interesting ideas here and there and what not, but I don't know. There is some nice fluttering but again I just kind of want this to end so I can finish the review.
  2. To My Friend Kenny McKenny: I like some of the squeaks at the beginning and they kind of make it be like, well there's 30 minutes left, let's just power though.
  3. Dedicated to Multi-Instrumentalist Leroy Jenkins: Leroy was a violinist, the most common instrument I've seen his playing for what I'm going to say, who played on a number of records with Braxton's. There is a part in the beginning that reminds me of a spy song maybe, but like the outline or rough draft. There was actually a part that reminded me of We Are Number One, and I did laugh a bit. After a while this 19 minute long track just kind of overstays its welcome. I mean there again are neat ideas, but it feels more like sketches than anything else.
Overall I have to give this a 5/10. I enjoyed this, just there is too much and not enough variety. Now I've heard some of Braxton's other work, and I've heard the different types of jazz. Now of everything I've heard of those categories, this is kind of looked at very highly and I have to disagree. The most important thing about music, unless it's breaking a rule or theoretical music (4:33), is it has to keep you entertained. It's like a movie, if you are bored while you watch its usually not very good. Now a number of things can be subjective, maybe your not into this or that, but overall you can kinda say if something is good or bad. This was just too long, too samey and didn't keep my interest. Maybe if he overdubbed or used different saxes or something, but what we have just isn't anything mind blowing to me. Maybe that's because I've heard this but done much better and much more intense and engaging. I can see how the idea of it is mind blowing to people, and still can be to this day, but I just am not fazed by it I guess.  Maybe part if the reason I gravitate towards Bailey is because he's a guitarist and I go, "Fuck How'd he do that" or originally "You can do that?". Saxophone players should listen to this, and then anything by John Zorn Pre-Spillane. Well this and really anything in the field of free and avant jazz with odd sax playing. I guess I can sum up what I said fast, if you want to have a solo instrument record this this it needs variety of to be short. Not a double albums worth. If this was a single record it would have been much more tolerable for me. If you want to hear this type of thing done right listen to Payan.

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