Anthony Braxton: Eight (+1) Tristano Compositions 1989 For Warne Marsh (2013)
Long valued as an elusive, out of print collector's item, the recently reissued Eight (+1) Tristano Compositions 1989 For Warne Marsh offers listeners another opportunity to reevaluate composer Anthony Braxton's vibrant reinterpretation of the groundbreaking pianist's work. Dedicated to the tenor saxophonist most commonly associated with pianist Lennie Tristano's oeuvre, this 1989 session originally included versions of "How Deep is the Ocean" and "Time on My Hands," two Great American Songbook standards related to the genial duo's purview. Omitting those numbers, the ensuing program consists of eight challenging Tristano originals and one Warne Marsh tune.
A common complaint about Tristano's oblique style of bebop is that its cerebral formalism doesn't always swingthe same criticism often levied against Braxton's most esoteric efforts. One listen to this ebullient set should dispel any such condemnations, however. Braxton (primarily on alto) and baritone saxophonist Jon Raskin make a deft frontline, investing these knotty themes with sonorous exuberance; their intertwining lines hurtle through labyrinthine chord changes with brisk momentum, bolstering fiery expressionism with virtuosic precision.
Discovered by Braxton, pianist Dred Scott, just 25 at the time of this date, infuses Tristano's circuitous melodies and contrapuntal harmonies with a cascading fervor that effectively sidesteps the author's intervallic approach. The veteran rhythm section of bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Andrew Cyrille underscores the proceedings with spirited tempos that keep the rhythms swinging but never staid, bringing new life to revered classics. Bop chestnuts such as "Lennie's Pennies," "Victory Ball" and "April" are delivered at breakneck speed, while duets like "Dreams" and "Baby" are given respectful readings that spotlight the intimate conversational rapport between the leader and pianist.
Numerous sessions over the years have documented Braxton's idiosyncratic interpretations of the jazz traditionsome more successful than others. In The Tradition (Steeplechase, 1974) found him paired with a stellar but incongruously straight-ahead rhythm section. Charlie Parker Project 1993 (Hatology, 1993), on the other hand, presented a far more adventurous and abstract take on similar material. Balancing his own personalized renditions with a reverence for historical authenticity, Eight (+1) Tristano Compositions 1989 For Warne Marsh embodies the best of both worlds, presenting Braxton's bold view of the jazz continuum in a singularly appealing light.
Track Listing: Two Not One; 317E 32nd Street; Dreams; Lennie's Pennies; Victory Ball; Sax Of A Kind; Lennie Bird; Victory Ball (take 2); Baby; April.
Personnel: Anthony Braxton: alto and soprano saxophone; Jon Raskin: baritone saxophone; Dred Scott: piano; Cecil McBee: bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums.