The Anxiety of Influence

COMP. 22

Anthony Braxton
The Complete Braxton
Freedom : 1971

Comp 22: AB, soprano sax (w/ overdubs).
Comp 6L: AB, sopranino sax; Chick Corea, piano.

Thanks to everyone who participated in our contest; the turnout was great. And thanks especially to Mosaic Records for providing a copy of their magnificent and utterly essential Complete Arista Recordings of Anthony Braxton box set to give away to a lucky reader.

The answer to the contest question of who were the three instrumentalists who most left their mark on Braxton, per Forces in Motion: Paul Desmond, John Coltrane, and Warne Marsh.

And without further ado, the winner of the Mosaic Box is one Jessie Rose. Congratulations, Jessie!

Those of you who didn’t win, head over and preorder yourself a copy of the Mosaic set. These limited editions always go out-of-print fast, so don’t delay. And stay tuned here, because there will be another Braxton giveaway coming up shortly.


Some may be surprised about Braxton’s influences — Coltrane, well sure. And Warne Marsh is a bit of a curveball, though Braxton has dedicated various compositions to him. But Paul Desmond? The West Coast cool jazz dude who played with Dave Brubeck? Really?

“Paul Desmond would open the world of the saxophone to me,” Braxton told Graham Lock in Forces in Motion. “I have never stopped loving this man’s music. The first thing that struck me was his sound. Then after that, his logic grabbed me. His music is widely misunderstood on many levels. He was fashionable for the wrong reasons and he was hated for the wrong reasons. It looked like he was a slow player, but in fact he was making very quick decisions and because he understood his craft so well his music has this air of easiness about it. Desmond understood how to get to the point quicker than most players ever learn.”

One of the major pieces Braxton dedicated to Desmond is a remarkable overdubbed soprano saxophone solo “Composition 22″ on The Complete Braxton. This is one of Braxton’s best solo performances, not just because the judicious use of overdubbing provides layers of sonic heft, but because of the tune’s inherent drama and slow passionate escalation. Listen closely and tell us what you hear of Desmond in this piece.

Braxton met Desmond but was too afraid and shy to tell him about this piece. “All of my recordings show the influence of Paul Desmond,” Braxton says. “But remember, I never wanted to imitate anybody because that would insult the masters. What I liked about them was they found their own way. Desmond understood he couldn’t deal with Charlie Parker’s dynamic, electric brilliance – but he also knew he could create the same aura by playing slower. So you go to the opposites. You know the old saying, listen to everybody so you know what not to play.”


The Complete Braxton was originally released by Freedom and later licensed by Arista. Since it didn’t originate with Arista, it’s not appearing on the Mosaic box. “Compostion 6L” is another high point from the album. This duet with Chick Corea has a very different feel from their first collaboration on the disc. It’s more lyrical, laid-back, and spacious. There’s an unhurried quality to both their playing that also brings to mind Paul Desmond, among others. One hears above all two masters taking their influences and distilling them into a roux that is distinctly new, and nothing less then their own.

NEXT UP: More Braxton fun, facts, and figures.

Category Anthony Braxton, contests