Anthony Braxton Project
Chapter One (Chicago/Army/AACM)
Braxton was born in 1945 and grew up on Chicago’s South Side. He
studied saxophone under Jack Gell, who was also Henry
Threadgill’s teacher at that time. In 1963, Braxton attended
Wilson Junior College (now Kennedy-King), a fertile ground for jazz
experimentation where Jack DeJohnette, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman,
and Ari Brown studied and played together.
Braxton joined the army in mid-1963, and after basic training was
stationed with the Fifth Army Band in the northern suburbs, allowing
him to continue his music studies in the city and to hear gigs there.
In 1965 he went to the Eighth Army Band in South Korea, where he
continued to jam, keeping up with new recordings by free jazz pioneers
Albert Ayler and John Coltrane. He also had the chance to improvise
with Korean and Japanese folk musicians.
On his return to Chicago in late 1966, Braxton immediately sought out
and joined the newly-formed Association for the Advancement of Creative
Musicians (AACM). He gigged in groups led by AACM members like Ajaramu,
Amina Myers, and Muhal Richard Abrams, while forming his own quartets
and trios with musicians such as Leroy Jenkins, Thurman Barker,
Kalaparush (Maurice McIntyre), Charles Clark and Leo Smith. This music
was recorded commercially on Three Compositions of New Jazz and Silence.
Although by most accounts Braxton’s music was heavily influenced
by John Coltrane when he arrived back in Chicago, he quickly began to
develop his own voice. Perhaps most importantly, Braxton gave a series
of AACM solo alto saxophone performances through which he developed the
“language music” options that served as building blocks for
his music system throughout his career. Like other AACM musicians,
Braxton’s performances in this period were noted and reviewed in Down Beat.
In 1969, the AACM members received an open invitation to play in Paris from the BYG label. Braxton left for Paris in June 1969.
At present, no unreleased recordings from this period are known, although Braxton once had tapes from his army period and it is
possible that these (and others) still exist.
Photo courtesy Terry Martin.
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