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.

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