Anthony Braxton

Solo (Pisa) 1982

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Through the Golden Years of New Jazz imprint, Leo Records has been releasing recently unearthed recordings of solo concerts by Anthony Braxton. If one had to pick only one of these releases, Solo (Pisa) 1982 is the jewel of the crown, both in terms of sound quality (significantly better than on the two Solo (Milano) 1979 sets) and performance. Simply put, Braxton is on fire. There are no details given as to the venue or exact date of the concert, but this Italian audience is clearly into Braxton's music, and the saxophonist responds by delivering a wide spectrum of his solo interests, from marvelously soulful numbers ("Composition 106n") to gritty noise-based exercises ("Composition 26g + 99g," played right after the former, for an extreme contrast). The set is rather short (45 minutes), but it features some of Braxton's finest playing from that era, one piece after another. Highlights include a stunning "Composition 77e," and renditions of "Alone Together" and "'Round 'Bout Midnight." Braxton concludes his performance with an over-the-top reading of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," stretching the already wide intervals of the tune into impossible jumps, and when the man leaves the stage, the crowd simply goes wild. A noisy seven-minute standing ovation ensues, at the end of which Braxton simply comes back and thanks the audience. The atmosphere throughout the performance is unlike most avant-garde jazz recordings; then again, even by Braxton's standards, this album is also unlike most avant-garde jazz recordings. Highly recommended to fans, newcomers, saxophone students, and people who still think this kind of stuff appeals to no one.

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