Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter

Source: Downtown Music Gallery.

I bought my first two albums by Anthony Braxton in 1974 (’New York, Fall 1974’) and 1975 (‘Five Pieces 1975’), both of which were on the Arista/Freedom label. Those records changed my life, my understanding of modern jazz at that point. I had only started buying jazz records in 1972 when I was a freshman at Glassboro State College in South Jersey. I hadn’t heard much about Mr. Braxton before that, aside from some journalists panning/misunderstanding Braxton’s early solo sax 2 LP set, ‘For Alto’ (from 1968). But those first two Arista records were a breath of fresh air and Braxton was working with Kenny Wheeler, George Lewis, Dave Holland & Barry Altschul, all of whom would become heroes of my friends & myself. Mr. Braxton went on to make another dozen albums for Arista, all different and all worth checking out. They were released as a box set on Mosaic but are long out of print. I went back to discover his Braxton’s earlier records with other members of the AACM and discovered even more riches, more treasures to savor. I have been a Braxton fan-addict ever since and have heard him in concert many times and have collected a large quantity of records from his vast 50 year career. Along with Sun Ra (one of Braxton’s main inspirations) or perhaps Duke Ellington, Mr. Braxton might have more releases than any other 20th/21st century composer. I was honored to actually meet and hang out with Mr. Braxton a couple of times nearly a decade ago, first when he wanted to sell off the old Braxton House label back catalogue and then when he did an in-store at DMG (when we were on the Bowery), signing copies of his Iridium box set and graciously meeting & shaking hands with his many of his fans for three hours that day. Later on the day we went across the street and had dinner at a thai restaurant that used to be the Tin Place avant/jazz club that existed during the loft jazz days. While we ate, Braxton was interviewed by Ted Pankin for Downbeat and he asked some tough questions. His answers were long and fascinating, I can still hear him describing the essence of Ghost Trance Music, a decade-long style of music that he had invented and which had continually evolved. After teaching at Wesleyan University for a long period, Mr. Braxton finally retired from academia and now works hard on his music and the Tricentric Foundation, which documents his music and encourages other musicians and composers with grants and other sources of inspiration.