thinking about free jazz

Untitled1Louis Armand at 3:AM Magazine:

Recorded in February 1969 and released as a double album the following year, Chicago jazzman Anthony Braxton’s debut, For Alto, represented a landmark in the development of free jazz, distinguished by Braxton’s minimalist choice of unaccompanied alto sax with no studio overdubbing. Braxton’s alignment with the contemporary musical avant-garde was clearly signalled by his dedication of one of the album’s tracks to John Cage, whose advocacy of chance compositional procedures and his close association with artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns indicates the kind of aesthetic-critical continuum in which Braxton sought to situate his own work (he would, for example, later record pieces for two pianos, five tubas, four amplified shovels, an orchestra and four slide projectors, even music for four orchestras).

Along with Steve Lacy, Ornette Coleman, John Zorn and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Braxton’s early recordings had a decisive impact on the postmodernist wave of 1970s jazz. The reach of Braxton’s compositions was eclectic, to say the least, embracing both European and African-American traditions, incorporating influences from Cage, Stockhausen, Reich, Glass and Webern, alongside Coltrane, Brubeck, Monk and Albert Ayler. It was an approach geared to generating almost universal antipathy from within the contemporary jazz establishment: they didn’t like the style of his music, his hair, his sweater, or the pipe he smoked.

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