Anthony Braxton - New York, Fall 1974 (1975), 8/10

Anthony Braxton was and is unfortunately overlooked due to his hyper-intellectual approach to music and musical philosophy. He was one of the most gifted artists in jazz during the late sixties and beyond, both as a performer and especially as a composer. There is almost no reference point to compare this particular work's production and sensibility to before the seventies (other than perhaps brief moments of a record like Eric Dolphy's Iron Man that Braxton would later draw direct inspiration from) and a very select few to this day. This recording reinforces what many dislike in his music and aesthetic, as it initially sounds jarring for anyone unfamiliar with Braxton's work, but the compositions, performances and vision are absolutely brilliant without exception. It is stunning how every individual moment on this recording offers something brilliant; even on repeated listens you can find something new every single time buried in its ample depth. Holland, Wheeler and Cooper have some particularly moving performances on tracks 1-3 and 6 and add a unique flavor with their uniquely individual contributions. The trio of saxophones along with Braxton on track five is a particularly brave but pleasing creative choice, especially at that particular stage in the album's flow and narrative progression. In fact, these musicians display such inherent chemistry in their work here that they would continue to work together for many years to come other several other pseudonyms. Some seriously innovative experimentation for a 1974 recording that has been expanded on substantially over the years by continually creative jazz musicians including and especially by Braxton himself. Moments like the first half of the opener’s beginning and Braxton stretching the physical limits of his instrument right away (similar to his equally impressive and forward-thinking For Alto) in the context of a grandiose composition exemplify what makes this record so particularly special even among his other bravely creative works such as the equally brave and forward thinking follow up to this album Five Pieces 1975

New York, Fall 1974 is the manifestation of everything I personally enjoy about truly innovative and boundary-pushing jazz. Even beyond the moments of surprise, it can groove and bop with the best of them, wearing its experimentative bebop influences on its sleeve with honesty and genuine inspiration. While some of Braxton's later work was more realized and reflected a maturation not only in his development as a musician with more breadth but also in his personal musical philosophy, this album and this place in time reflects some of his most successful compositional structures ever recorded. Structures being a key factor when considering a record leaning so heavily on its foundational qualities. While some of Braxton's musical ideas throughout his career have become too cerebral for their own good, although there is still an audience of musicians for such work, on New York, Fall 1974 they are pleasingly balanced against a soulful rhythm section and a striking developmental variety in flavor with each song. A prime example being his idea of African 'bi-aitional' music (incorporating both the masculine and the feminine vibrational principles) illustrated in the juxtaposition of the first three tracks played in succession along with four and five. The closer “23A” incorporates Braxton's inclination for staccato line formings 'as a basis to establish territories of improvisation'. As with much free improvisation music, the performers are given sparse notation as a foundation for free expression, in order to actualize personal inventions in the musical space. There are also present, albeit sparingly on this record, moments when some performers are playing with indeterminate time structure; an idea Braxton would explore more deeply on later albums and as early as Creative Orchestra Music. Of course, the personnel on this record are outstanding including the aforementioned Holland, Wheeler and Cooper as well as the prolific Leroy Jenkins featuring on track six. Not to mention the astounding fact that Braxton contributes alto, flute, clarinet, sopranino and contrabass. The exceptionally wide variety of compositions and style of material on this record makes it a great introduction to Braxton's musical ideas in combination with his contributions to others' works. Absolutely essential for a holistic jazz experience.