[127] Anthony Braxton – For Alto

11 Sep

This is not background music.


I am sure that there will be many people who hear these almost tuneless, almost ugly tracks and dismiss or dislike them instantly, but I find them intellectually and aesthetically fascinating.

It took me almost no time at all to discover that I could not listen to this double album of solo alto saxophone at my desk.  Each time I tried, work would stop entirely as I found myself attempting to follow and understand the dizzying path around which the single instrument was dragging the melody.

The speed of the fingering would be astounding enough, but the breath behind these breakneck runs and great raw squeals defies explanation.

For Alto is a very different animal than much of the cool-hot melodic Jazz I have so enjoyed to date.  Braxton is closer to experimental modern classical at times, wailing and challenging in equal measure.

The recording strips down some of the ideas heard in other Free Jazz masterpieces to a single voice, leaving the sax out on a limb without a safety net, soloing in exhausting 10 minute explosions with no band, trio or quartet to share the load.

There is a palpable sense of exploration on show which I find irresistible, whether Braxton is stretching a rhythm to breaking point or forcing sounds from his instrument which perhaps no saxophone had ever made before.

Then the album begins to wind down, the pace slows, and Braxton’s explorations turn to the depth and texture of the tones he can coax out of the eponymous instrument. The melodies remain rambling and seemingly unfocused, yet still I cannot tune out for even a moment.

For Alto is a signpost, a signal expressing what music can be. It demonstrates the theory that music is all but limitless, by taking the listener beyond those perceived limits without losing the way, without wasting the time of either performer or follower.

Listen to Anthony Braxton take his sax to the limit before you die. Perhaps you will not like what you hear.

But I bet you have a strong reaction.

Next Week: Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

Owned before blogging? No. (11 of 127 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (19 of 127 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (105 of 127 = 83%)

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