Anthony Braxton: Played Twice
Anthony Braxton (alto saxophone)
Six Monk’s Compositions (1987) (Black Saint 120116-2 CD)
Rating: 89/100 (learn more)
Love him or hate him, Anthony Braxton is definitely one of a kind. When playing his own compositions, Braxton plays by his own rules. It's a game he always wins. When he ventures outside his creative universe—as when addressing this tune by Thelonious Monk—he still wins, simply by making his rules fit a new set of circumstances.
A hardcore bebopper might listen to this track and infer that Braxton doesn't know what he's doing. After all, he plays fast and loose with the changes; "wrong" notes and irregular rhythms abound; uncertainty exists in almost every aspect of his playing. So if Braxton is doing everything wrong, why am I so blown away by this? Because, as the writer Deepak Chopra says, there is wisdom in uncertainty, in not micro- managing every tiny aspect of one's being, but trusting that one will have the resources to deal with a myriad of possibilities instinctively, as they arise. It's the essence of improvisation, and Braxton embodies it.
There are few things more uncertain than what Anthony Braxton might play next over a given set of chord changes, no greater example of a musician creating entirely in the moment. There are no fixed patterns in his improvising, no licks as such—just pure, spontaneous invention, and if it sounds utterly different from anything you might have heard anyone play over this familiar tune before ... well, so what? That's what jazz is about.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey