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Saxophone Improvisations, Séries F

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Album Review

The Inner City label reissued this album not out of some great commitment to avant-garde solo saxophone, but because there was a licensing deal with the shady French label called America, and Braxton himself had elevated his position back home. He was a contracted artist with Arista when this reissue popped out, and had some big write-ups in magazines such as Rolling Stone — none of which could possibly prepare an uninitiated listener for the onslaught that is his solo saxophone music in the early days when his manner of presentation was less refined and documentation was low-budget. This early-'70s recording is a bit better quality than his landmark solo recording done for Delmark on a cassette player that probably cost less than the price of watching Braxton for two sets at a New York club, back when they were hiring him. But it still sounds like it was recorded in someone's kitchen, and the pressings that either label involved in this release were willing to pay for weren't exactly top of the line. The next thing is to say that all this is part of the charm, but that would be a lie. Cheesy recording mars some of the quieter and subtler parts of the first side, and is only a bit less of a problem on the loud distorted sections. Some listeners may feel like tossing the album onto the fireplace in the first five minutes, with the opening suite coming across as a bit precious and inevitably compounded by gouges and shrapnel in the pressing. Nonetheless, the extended performance that makes up all of the second side is one of the greatest things Braxton has ever put on disc, a demonstration of energy, versatility, manipulation of tone, and perverse musical logic that stands as one of the best solo horn performances in the jazz discography. And although the early recordings of Braxton seem to be marked by frustration and failure, this is a suitable follow-up to For Alto as well as an improvement, a great accomplishment in itself.


Born: 04 June 1945 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Genius is a rare commodity in any art form, but at the end of the 20th century it seemed all but non-existent in jazz, a music that had ceased looking ahead and begun swallowing its tail. If it seemed like the music had run out of ideas, it might be because Anthony Braxton covered just about every conceivable area of creativity during the course of his extraordinary career. The multi-reedist/composer might very well be jazz's last bona fide genius. Braxton began with jazz's essential rhythmic and...
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