I have been on a Braxton kick for some time. His catalog is so dense and mystifying that when you get going in the investigation, small holes reveal such an exciting world. I love Istanbul, the city, because of its seeming limitlessness. The same reason I like New York, actually. It's a riddle that keeps on expanding in complexity and wonder. Braxton's music is tough music because there's really not much like it. It is to be reckoned with alone. To get to know it, you really have to just listen and listen.
I imagine those Braxton "holes" are different for everyone, but for me they're the musical moments bursting with humor. To many, even bigtime jazz heads, Braxton is serious as death, solemn, an arch-theorist and an artist beyond recompense. It's the old thing. When people don't understand something, they write it off as piffle, or call it Art and elevate it to a status beyond reproach. Critics generally don't help matters for the listener in this respect, either. As Braxton says, "Only in jazz is thinking a dirty word." Of course, he's wrong, but it's a damn good line.
Good art and jazz in particular rarely needs to be discussed to be appreciated. However, Braxton, in the following interview excerpt, and despite the interviewer's provoking and posturing, reveals himself to have an infectious laugh, an affable disposition and the gift of conversation, which really might make the music less grave to the haters/wannabes.
Although, listen, that's not really a problem. Two of my favorite Braxton records, New York, Fall 1974 and The Montreaux-Berlin Concerts, are among those being reissued in the 8-disc Mosaic set, The Complete Arista Recordings of Anthony Braxton, coming in October. Another one, Performance (Quartet) 1979, was reissued on Hatology last year. (Here's hoping Dortmund's next, a sample of which is below). All feature amazing bands, and a palpable sense of humor, even whimsy. These four records are openings in the forest, and a long and prosperous journey awaits.
There's a distinct playfulness to the newest Braxton band as well, the Anthony Braxton Diamond Curtain Wall Trio/Quartet, with the amazing Mary Halvorson on guitar (peep her duo record with Weasel Walter!; see previous BotB/Nash Rose post here), Taylor Ho-Bynum on trumpet and Katie Young on bassoon. There's a recent trio record on Victo. What a band! Video of a Moscow gig from 2007 after the jump.