Tag Archives: Anthony Braxton

Acid Test: Experimental Electronics, Musique Concrète, Warped Funk, & More

Acid-test-jan-1244.jpgIn addition to riotous rock, joyous jazz, and hard-hitting hip-hop, Bandcamp is also home to music that stretches the limits of psychedelia, noise, ambient, and nascent genres like vaporwave. Each month, Miles Bowe digs deep through the site’s obscure corners, to bring the most strange, brilliant, and sometimes emotionally powerful releases back up to the surface. This is Acid Test.

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Album of the Day: Kyoko Kitamura, “Protean Labyrinth”

The improvisational vocalist and composer Kyoko Kitamura has played a major role in the world of Anthony Braxton. She’s sung in an intimate trio with the veteran alto saxophonist, and also in operas from the composer’s grand Trillium cycle. Now she’s leading her own band—a group called Tidepool Fauna—on the album Protean Labyrinth.

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A Guide to Anthony Braxton’s Robust Jazz Discography on Bandcamp

Anthony Braxton

When it comes to Anthony Braxton’s stupefyingly large discography, the major shock isn’t that he eventually found it necessary to start his own label. In retrospect, the surprise is that this development didn’t take place until the composer and multi-instrumentalist was almost 30 years deep into a masterfully inventive career.

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Jazz Giant Wadada Leo Smith on Four Recent Collaborations

Wadada-Leo-Smith_by-Michael-Jackson_600

Wadada Leo Smith. Photo by Michael Jackson.

The greatest testament to trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith’s ability to improvise and adapt to creative situations is to look at the list of artists he’s collaborated with since he arrived in the Chicago jazz scene in the mid ‘60s. Along the way, he has worked with the likes of drummer Jack DeJohnette, accordionist and composer Pauline Oliveros, British electronic duo Spring Heel Jack, and, to great acclaim, pianist Vijay Iyer.

Smith is able to move between such varied worlds because he’s a sharp listener, and a player who’s able to utilize silence as much as the quick, clear, stabbing notes and frayed tones he pulls from his instrument. That openness and calm comes across most strongly in his own compositions—beautiful, sweeping post-modern jazz works that tend to use symbolic scores derived from a self-created systemic musical language he dubbed ‘Ankhrasmation.’ On the page, it looks like beautiful abstract art.

His willingness to collaborate and create, especially over the last decade or so, has resulted in a wealth of studio works and live recordings that feature his improvising. We caught up with Smith from his home in Connecticut, after his regular acupuncture appointment, to get his thoughts on four of his recent albums.

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How Bang On A Can Rejuvenated New York’s Improvisational Spirit

Bang On A Can

New York in the 1970s was a crazed, creative zone. Composer-improvisers like George E. Lewis shared venues with writers of fully-notated classical works, like Steve Reich, and post-punk experimenters like Rhys Chatham. But by the late ‘80s, the underground had atomized; the all-welcoming, genre-agnostic community had splintered into a collection of discrete camps. Classical minimalists, turntablists, and post-punk pioneers were still putting in work, but they rarely occupied the same stages. When conservatory grads Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon, and David Lang first arrived in that late ‘80s New York scene, they found the lack of cohesion crushing in its sadness. They wanted to bring that not-so-old New York collaborative spirit back.

Over the 30 years that followed, their collective—dubbed Bang On A Can—would help rejuvenate that communal vibe. Over time, other composer-based collectives sprang up around them, emulating their pan-stylistic values. Artists on their own label, Cantaloupe, won Pulitzer prizes for music. They would collaborate with a wide variety of experimentalists, including Meredith Monk and Thurston Moore—while also helping to realize ambitious works that had never been performed previously (like composer Anthony Braxton’s piece for 100 tubas).

This summer, the collective will celebrate their 30th anniversary with an eight-hour marathon at the Brooklyn Museum. The Bang On A Can founders have also begun to make their deep archive of live recordings available, exclusively on Bandcamp, for those who join the Cantaloupe label’s subscription program. The influence of the Bang On A Can marathons can be seen in other underground gathering grounds, like Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival. Thanks to the new archive, you can visit some of their earliest concerts.

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