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In the Tradition, Vol. 1

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Album Review

The great avant-gardist Anthony Braxton threw the jazz world a curve with this album (and its second volume). Braxton, filling in for an ill Dexter Gordon, was joined by pianist Tete Montoliu, bassist Niels Pedersen and drummer Tootie Heath for a set of five jazz standards. After playing the melodies fairly straight, Braxton tears into Warne Marsh's "Marshmallow," "Just Friends" and "Lush Life" with very complex and abstract improvisations that are generally ignored by the rhythm section who go about playing in their usual bop-oriented style. An exception is a duet with bassist Pedersen on a very spooky "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," one of two songs on which Braxton plays contrabass clarinet. His solo on "Ornithology" on that instrument is a bit silly, for the contrabass clarinet is so low that one has difficulty telling some of its notes apart from each other. A historical curiosity, this set is not as essential as Braxton's explorations of his own music.


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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