Anthony Braxton: An American Visionary


Anthony Braxton

Anthony Braxton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Jazz Times:

In early April, Anthony Braxton stood in a seventh-floor rehearsal studio blocks from Times Square conducting his latest opera, Trillium J (The Non-Unconfessionables). A group of avant-garde luminaries buried their heads in the complex score. “Sellout, sellout, sellout,” sang Taylor Ho Bynum in a haunting ostinato. For Braxton, an avant-garde multireedist and composer who has never compromised his creative vision over a five-decade career, the pejorative was in no way autobiographical. “Suddenly, it might be possible to get on network television after all,” Ho Bynum recited in a sprechgesang reminiscent of Schoenberg, concluding the scene.

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Jan Williams: The Most Important Person in Buffalo’s Avant-Garde Musical History?


From The Buffalo News:

No resident Buffalo musician has ever been more important to its avant-garde musical history than Jan Williams. What Williams has been since he became a Creative Associate in 1964, is the ubiquitous and indispensable figure in Buffalo’s musical avant-garde – as a teacher to percussionists in all musical genres, a performer, conductor, chairman of the UB Music Department, key member of major music ensembles (the Creative Associates, the SEM Ensemble) and the enabling administrative collaborator of musicians of potentially far more volcanic and off-putting temperament (Feldman, pianist Yvar Mikhashoff, with whom Williams co-directed the North American Music Festival from 1983 to 1991.)

Rudresh Mahanthappa: A melting pot of jazz from a childhood saxophone


Rudresh Mahanthappa

Rudresh Mahanthappa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From The Globe and Mail:

Rudresh Mahanthappa may be the least traditional traditionalist in jazz. Along with pianist Vijay Iyer and guitarist Rez Abbasi, the alto saxophonist is perhaps best-known for his efforts to incorporate elements of Indian classical improvisation into jazz. But he has also made it clear, through recordings with musicians as diverse as drummer Jack DeJohnette and saxophonist Bunky Green, that he’s equally at home with the standard jazz vernacular.

N.Y. Composer, Pianist Anthony Coleman Brings Radical Jewish Culture to Israel


Anthony Coleman

Cover of Anthony Coleman

From Haaretz:

While the rest of the musicians were awake, Coleman took a power nap on the floor, near one of the auditorium’s walls. His snores – which ranged in volume from piano to forte – were typified by an impressive dynamic of rhythm and tone, and at times made the other four musicians erupt in laughter. After they completed a run-through of Shatil’s piece, Coleman suddenly awoke, murmured “That was great,” and went back to sleep. Oddly enough, this situation did not seem all that strange. And that is not just because, in Coleman’s creative universe – which ranges between the avant-garde works of John Cage and the downtown scene identified with John Zorn – it is not hard to imagine a work for four musicians who are awake and one who’s asleep. One of the most important fundamentals in Coleman’s music is humor, and the image of him stretched out on the floor, despite his relatively advanced age (59) and his respected status as a composer and improviser, was, above all, funny and human.

Sun Ra: Jazz’s Interstellar Voyager


Sun Ra

Cover of Sun Ra

From The Guardian:

Ra was hardly the first bandleader to drive his band hard, but he took it to another plane. Musicians who didn’t focus or turned up late were locked in cupboards or, even worse, given the “royal treatment”. At the Arkestra‘s next gig, they would be placed on a chair at the front of the stage, and Ra would announce that, because of a lack of discipline, they would not be allowed to play. It might sound ludicrous, but this musical naughty step exemplified the power that Ra and his music wielded over band members. Many remained with him for decades, honouring his vision long after his death from pneumonia in 1993. Saxophonist Marshall Allen joined the Arkestra in 1958 and, at the age of 90, leads the band to this day.

Richard Pinhas on Lessons Learned During a Lifetime Making Experimental Music


From The Washington Post:

For experimental-music aficionados, it’s hard to imagine a world without Richard Pinhas. The French-born guitarist and composer has been a fixture in the international underground for four decades. But there was a time when Pinhas, now 63, thought he was done with music. “In the early 1980s, I was at the point where I had nothing else to say. I was just repeating myself,” he says by phone from Montreal. “I didn’t think I’d come back, because after years away it’s very hard to return, both to playing your instrument and to the circuit.”

A New Focus on Eric Dolphy, in Washington and Montclair


Eric Dolphy

Cover of Eric Dolphy

From NYTimes.com:

In the jazz of the 1960s, Eric Dolphy was an original: a hero to some, but also a mystery, a virtuosic improviser searching for ways of expression outside of common practice. He died of an undiagnosed diabetic condition in Berlin in June 1964, at 36, old enough to consolidate his experience and wisdom but perhaps too young to settle his reputation, which had by then taken some knocks from those who found his music abstract or abrasive.

David Grubbs: Records Make the Landscape


David Grubbs performing as part of EMP Pop Con...

David Grubbs

From the Bleader:

A couple of months ago I interviewed former Chicagoan David Grubbs about his excellent book Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording (Duke University Press), a highly readable and illuminating examination of the role sound recordings play in the dissemination of experimental music. In the book he writes about how important recordings have been an educational and aesthetic tool, a medium that brought him into contact not only with work made decades before he was born, but also music that was rarely if ever performed in Louisville, Kentucky, where he grew up.

Anthony Braxton: It Can’t Get Any Better than This


Anthony Braxton

Anthony Braxton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From The Mockingbird Sings, a Braxton profile:

Earlier this year when the NEA named Anthony Braxton a 2014 Jazz Master, he expressed surprise, noting that for over fifty years the jazz community had ‘pushed him back’. It was indeed a surprise seeing Wynton Marsalis as the master of ceremonies for the presentation of the award. The bitter residue of Ken Burns’ PBS jazz documentary is vivid in my memory. Like Braxton himself, I had long gotten used to not thinking about the label of jazz. I like the designation he provides in his acceptance speech: trans-idiomatic music. A small voice inside me—not the best one, no doubt—said, they want to drag him back into the smallness of their world. Or could it be that cracks in that world-view are forming, that they need someone like Braxton? Are jazz fans confused by it all? The musical excerpt chosen for the ceremonies, from Braxton’s opera, utilized jazz language instrumentation, but sounded just like opera. Are we going to call this “jazz” now? Are there political forces behind the scenes of such an award that seek some advantage in trying to bring Anthony Braxton back into the fold? While I am happy to see him being recognized, I think that jazz needs Anthony Braxton more than he needs the award.

100th Anniversary of the Earth Arrival of Sun Ra


Sun Ra

Cover of Sun Ra

From ESP Disk:

Happy birthday to Sun Ra, born May 22, 1914. He claimed to be from Saturn, but he was originally named Herman Poole Blount from Birmingham, Alabama. However, from late 1952 until the end of his life in 1993, his legal name was Le Sony’r Ra. Sun Ra’s big band, dubbed the Arkestra (with a nearly infinite number of expanded variations on the name) was jazz’s longest-lasting avant-garde big band (it existed for four decades), and he ranks among the most original innovators in music history. John Coltrane, George Clinton, and Sonic Youth were just a few of those influenced by his music, their diversity shows the breadth of his impact, which extended across genre boundaries.