Any good review of an Anthony Braxton album should begin with a diatribe about how under appreciated and under-rated he is, and this review will be no different. After the passing of the Coltrane/Dolphy generation, Braxton should have been next in line for “jazz legend” due to his abilities as both a composer and performer, but people were put off by his preppy collegiate appearance, and his oblique song titles and presentations that didn’t fit the mainstream or the ‘in crowd’ of the avant-garde either. Unfairly, Braxton was labeled as overly intellectual, and his music was considered cold and academic. Certainly there is a very intellectual side to Braxton’s music, and he can easily work in contemporary concert hall mediums, but there can also be a lot of humor in his music, as well as deep down to earth blues roots. From crazy bar room gig to Stockhausen, its all here.
“New York/Fall 1974” was a fairly high profile album for Anthony in that he would be given bigger distribution than usual for an avant-garde jazzist. His career was on a bit of a roll at this time and he was releasing very creative albums that baffled everyone with their song titles that featured odd geometric diagrams, hence all the tracks on here are referred to by their track numbers. Side one consists of three very bizarre hard bop numbers, with the first being the best with its crazy repetitive melody and high energy free middle section. All of these tunes sound like nobody else, with latter period Eric Dolphy being one possible reference.
Side two gets more into Braxton’s ‘concert hall’ approach. The first track is an excellent duet with Richard Teitelbaum who plays an old analog synthesizer. Before synthesizers became commercially viable and tunable, they were magical bundles of barely controllable oscillators and filters that were used for some very creative sounds by certain experimental composers. This track captures a rare period in experimental music that is hard to re-create anymore. The following track presents one of the first avant-garde saxophone quartets, an idea that would grow in popularity until there would be many successful modern saxophone quartets all over the globe. This track gets into repetitive notes that recall Xennakis’ stochastic music.
The variety of music on here would be hard for anyone else to duplicate. On the first side Braxtion plays feirce alto sax like the second coming of Eric Dolphy, and on the second side we get successful concert hall electronics and a saxophone quartet with a lasting influence on the history of jazz. The members of the quartet that Anthony assembled on here; Hemphill, Lake and Bluiett, would all go on to play in other high profile quartets formed after the release of this album.