Standards (Brussels) 2006

December, 2008
6CD BoxSet
Anthony Braxton Quartet

Anthony Braxton's periodical incursions in standards repertory  are always a new way to think classical structures.
His style is immediately clear: pixeling notes, sudden fastness, stretched sentences.

A live recording with all the freshness one needs to be in deep touch with creativity and joyous interplay.
Italian partners provide a vivid sustain, an evocative tone palette, a great rythmic support  and sincere brilliant solos .

This edition is packed is an elegant cartboard 6 cds box set including a 26 pages booklet with three essays by italian poet and writer Erika Dagnino:

“Positions for listening”
“Real space and dislocation”
“A possible anthropogony?”

and completed by detailed bios and quotes by featured musicians and a prefaction by co-producer Gianni Mimmo.


All About Jazz
Mark Corroto

The jazz canon and Anthony Braxton have been companions throughout his entire career. His admiration for innovators like Thelonious Monk, Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, and Paul Desmond has been documented in interviews and music. Beginning with What's New In The Tradition (SteepleChase, 1974) to his "piano" recordings at New York's Knitting Factory in the '90s, Braxton has kept his listeners reminded of his jazz roots without imitating the style of other players.

Assembled here are nearly six hours of music from the Anthony Braxton Quartet, recorded over four nights at PP Cafe in Brussels. The Belgian outing finds Braxton in good company with an adventurous Italian trio of pianist Alessandro Giachero (William Parker Italian Quartet), bassist Antonio Borghini (Bassesfere Collective, Memorial Barbecue Octet) and drummer Cristiano Calcagnile (Bassesfere Collective and his Chant Trio).

Where jazz standards recorded by Braxton once expanded tradition, as with The Charlie Parker Project (HatART, 1993) or Eight (+3) Tristano Compositions 1989 (HatART, 1989), these discs are more like Braxton's Standards Quartet circa 2003 with Kevin O'Neil, Kevin Norton and Andy Eulau, heard on Leo Records. The outward bound turns inward. The quartet pays deference to the tradition in the way the music is presented. Much like later period John Coltrane recording his Ballads (Impulse!, 1962) and Johnny Hartman (Impulse!, 1963), these tracks communicate that the great innovator of our times is indeed at peace with standards, while he remains forging new pathways like his Ghost Trance Music.

The music chosen by the quartet is never repetitive (except for Wayne Shorter's "Virgo") and like any quality band, it gets better as the gig progresses. The band stretches out each track further and further as the days go on. By disc six they are in full swing, Braxton yielding plenty of space for his companions to play. These three are adept at improvisation, based upon coherent structure and inherent swing. Disciplined by the familiar and the revered, their departures or journeys tastefully reference the whole; certainly that is at Braxton's pleasure. Long beyond having anything to prove, his playing is as relaxed as can be.

No one is phoning their performance in here. They tear both Gershwin's "Strike Up The Band" and George Russell's "Ezz-Tethics" into frenetic pieces and the three group improvised pieces are outstanding.

The six discs are beautifully packaged in a box with thoughtful liner notes from Erika Dasgnino and Amirani Records chief Gianni Mimmo.

Jazznet Denmark
Henrik Kaldahl

Once again it is time for a review of another release with the brilliant saxofonist Anthony Braxton. 

Anthony Braxton plays, as always magnifficient on his alto saxophone, and this time he joins forces with three Italian musicians: 

Alessandro Giachero on piano, Antonio Borghini on bass and Cristiano Calcagnile on drums, here caught alive on 23-26 November 2006 

at PP Cafe in Brussels, Belgium. 

This 6 CD box with a total playing time of more than 6 hours, contains of 36 tracks - 33 standards and 3 free improvisation 

and a 26-page booklet with interesting and informative notes by the Italian poet and writer Erika Dagnino. 

The material here presented are by as different composers as Charles Lloyd, Bill Evans, Wayne Shorter, Thelonious Monk, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Fats Waller, Charlie Parker, Cole Porter and Eric Dolphy. 

These interpretations of old familiar songs, is an impressive insight and introduction to the way that Braxton interprets standards on. 

The three Italian musicians are doing a fantastic job, and is the perfect playmates for Braxton and his saxophone. 

Braxton goes in front as the natural leading figure, but provides plenty of room to the other musicians in various solos and improvisations. 

Braxton plays as always a lively and committed saxophone, and it is clear to the listener that is a unique musicians

with complete track of what this is all about - the music. 

Alessandro is a very skilled pianist, takes the lead (in a good way) in one number after another, giving the numbers his own personal touch. 

Borghini and Calcagnile lies as the ultimate backing group, supporting the others with their tight and close playing on the bass and drums. 

The well-known numbers are drawn through the Braxton machine, turned so much inside out, that it sometimes

is difficult to recognize the originals, as they are presented in their most free way sending chills down your back. 

This boxset is the most jazzy release, from the small Italian company Amirani Records, which so far has released 

more twisted and advandtgarde things, less accessible if you like, as is the case here.

Music Boom
Vittorio Lo Conte

Non è la prima volta che Anthony Braxton si dedica agli standards, prima timidamente inseriti fra le sue composizioni, poi affrontati in modo eterodosso come nei due volumi di In the Tradition incisi per la Steeplechase nel 1974. Da quel momento sono diventati parte del suo mondo espressivo, suonati al consueto sassofono contralto o al pianoforte, raccolti in box da quattro CD, per la Leo Records o per la Music Arts, o camuffati da omaggi, come quelli a Charlie Parker ed a Tristano per la HatArt sempre ad un alto livello di creatività. 

La Amirani Records di Gianni Mimmo arriva con un sorpresa, un cofanetto di ben sei CD inciso dal vivo nel corso di 4 giornate, dal 23 al 26 Novembre del 2006, a Brussels al PP Café, per la gioia degli spettatori presenti e di chi apprezza la sua musica su disco. Questa volta si presenta con una ritmica italiana, in grado di accompagnarlo con precisione atraverso il viaggio nella tradizione, quella che comunemente è riservata agli specialisti del mainstream. 

Alessandro Giachero al pianoforte, Antonio Borghini al contrabbasso e Cristiano Calcagnile alla batteria hanno ormai l´esperienza per accompagnarlo e per fare di questa occasione qualcosa di speciale. Braxton al solito segue i suoi percorsi impervi, i salti di registro, il patrimonio della cultura free, su strutture riconoscibili, su brani, sei per disco, che abbracciano decenni di storia. Da classici dell´era bop come "Ah Leu Cha" di Charlie Parker e "Tadd´s Delight" di Tadd Dameron ai piú moderni "Forest Flower" di Charles Lloyd e "Night Dreamer" di Wayne Shorter. 

Certo l`interpretazione lascia perplessi chi si aspetta un percorso ortodosso da parte dei quattro. Braxton fa di tutto per non rassomigliare agli altri colleghi di strumento: le incursioni fra gli standards sono dettate dalla sua curiosità intellettuale, senza la necessità di suonare "corretto", come fa di solito chi ha frequentato una scuola di jazz. È un atteggiamento il suo che si propaga alla ritmica, trasportata senza remore su un mondo che solo il sassofonista di Chicago sa evocare, in cui la tradizione appare moderna e capace di rinnovarsi. 

I dischi sono accompagnati da un booklet in cui la poetessa Erika Dagnino descrive le peculiarità del mondo braxtoniano. È un saggio molto interessante che aiuta a comprendere meglio le trasgressioni musicali dei quattro.


Downtown Music Gallery
Bruce Lee Gallanter

Packaged in an elegant cartboard box (a decca style) which includes a 26 page booklet with three little essays (Positions for listening, Real space and dislocation, A possible anthropogony) by Italian poet and writer Erika Dagnino. Featuring Anthony Braxton on alto sax, Alessandro Giachero on piano, Antonio Borghini on double bass and Cristiano Calcagnile on drums. Recorded live November 23-26 2006 at P P Cafe in Brussels, Belgium. Although I didn't initially recognize the names of the three Italian musicians that Mr. Braxton has chosen to play with, each comes from a diverse background of collaborations. Pianist Alessandro Giachero is a member of William Parker's Italian Qt with Hamid Drake. Bassist Antonio Borghini is a member of the Bassesfere collective, as well as working with David Murray, Butch Morris, Ab Baars and Mary Halvorson. Drummer, Cristiano Calcagnile, is also a member of Bassesfere and has played with Damo Suzuki, Daniee D'Agaro, Rova Sax Qt and Tristan Honsinger.

This fine quartet covers some 34 standards, as well as a couple of group improvisations. The selection of standards runs from Broadway show tunes like "I'm Old Fashioned", to "These Foolish Things" to "It's You or No One" to more modern gems by Monk, "Monk's Mood" and "Ruby My Dear", Wayne Shorter, "Night Dreamer" and "Virgo" and even Eric Dolphy "Out to Lunch". All composers that cast a long shadow of influence on modern jazz and certainly not east songs to cover. The first discs opens with Charles Lloyd's "Forest Flower" from perhaps the most popular of Charles Lloyd's sixties albums. It is a lovely song and Braxton makes it his own with a long, distinctive and spirited alto sax solo while Alessandro plays some exquisite piano. The rhythm team is consistently creative, swings hard and keeping a buoyant balance underneath each soloist. Alessandro Giachero is a fabulous pianist and takes one great solo after another on every one of these tunes he is featured on. I dig the way the rhythm team keeps Mr. Braxton on his toes by tightly supporting him wherever he goes. Even on the ballads, which Braxton often plays with in a straight forward fashion, he also injects subtle and sly twists to keeps things interesting. There are three group improvisations which are all great and show another, freer side to this amazing quartet. So far, I've listened to three of the six discs and will check out the last three tonight. Considering that this six disc box set is over six hours long, it is a most impressive excursion into Braxton's unique way of interpreting standards with a super quartet of well-selected collaborators.

Free Jazz Blog
Stef Gjissels

Since the beginning of his solo career, Anthony Braxton apparently needs to move back to a more traditional environment, starting with "In The Tradition" in 1974, yet I have the impression that his standards releases are increasing over the years, especially in this century, but possibly in equal proportion to the rest of his impossible-to-keep-up-with output, with releases such as"8 Standards Wesleyan", "20 Standards (quartet) 2003" album, the "23 Standards" album, there's now "Standards (Brussels) 2006", a nice 6-CD box with a 20-page booklet with texts by Italian author Erika Dagnino. The concept of a "standard" is also flexible in Braxton's mind apparently, with pieces such as Charles Lloyd "Forest Flower" and George Russell's "Exx-Tethic" also falling into the category. The original performance captured in this box was played on four consecutive nights in a Brussels bar, with an Italian trio consisting of Alessandro Giachero on piano, Antonio Borghini on bass and Cristiano Calcagnile on drums.

The repertoire has pieces by Gershwin, Fats Waller, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, ... with a totally different play-list for each evening. Sure, it is mainstream, the music flows along quite smoothly, post-boppish, with the three Italian musicians doing an excellent job, and Braxton plays along, he is possibly the one going the most outside the compositions, yet not too often, and - to his credit - he lets his band-members lots of space for soloing. The audience is fully involved, quietly listening, and applauding and reacting nicely. The best tracks are the ones on which the band turns the standard inside out, literally then, as on "Ezz-Tethic", which, after the bass solo, moves into eery avant-garde territory, first getting rid of rhythm and harmonics, then re-building it with a hypnotic piano phrase and great sax-playing by Braxton.

I am not too sure whether the sequence of the tracks on the CDs correspond to the performance itself, but it is clear that on discs 5 and 6, the band seems to be more tuned to one another, which creates more possibilities for a broader freedom of approach. The "standard" still gets usual mainstream attention till halfway down the piece, and usually after the piano solo, for a second, free-er version to start, yet again ending in the main theme. The Gerschwin brothers would possibly have a hard time recognizing the second part of their "Strike Up The Band", a track on which also Giachero turns wild. Throughout the sets Braxton's alto gives a light, shimmering atmosphere to the music, which is further reinforced by the subtlety of touch of the accompanying trio. This is music which sounds relax at moments, intense at others, structured and free, played by a band that clearly enjoys the music they're playing as much as how they can make it their own.

One downside of the box is that, even if the performance was recorded live, some tracks end in fade-outs, leaving the somewhat frustrating feeling that there is no reaction from the audience, but that's just a minor comment on an otherwise impeccable set with excellent sound quality.


Recording _ 23-26 november 2006 LIVE at PP Café,  Brussels, Belgium 
sound engineer _ Michael Huon
mastering _ Jon Rosenberg
liner notes _ Erika Dagnino
translation _ Marco Bertoli
cover photo _ Agua Mimmo
inside photos  _ Valentina Medda (Anthony Braxton),Elda Papa (Cristiano Calcagnile), Massimiliano Cobianchi (Antonio Borghini), Unknown (Alessandro Giachero)
concept  _ Gianni Mimmo
production _ Anthony Braxton and Gianni Mimmo forAmirani Records