Monday, December 04, 2006

unstandard braxton

Timo Hoyer, whom I didn't meet but was also at the PP Café concerts, sent me a link to the english translation of his March 2006 Jazzthetik article entitled "Music for the 21st century." Here are the two paragraphs relevant to the standards playing debate. Not too esoteric, either.

More often than ever the last years found Braxton performing jazz standards.
His European tour of 2003 - completely dedicated to the tradition - is documented on eight CDs (Leo Records). "I did this tour because occasionally I have to gain distance from my other projects and return to the fundaments." A fusion of jazz standards with his own compositions is out of the question, though. "I keep them strictly apart. I hark back to the traditional repertoire to make positive experiences and show new possibilities. But this material belongs to the 20th century, whereas my work is about the 21st century! Merging them wouldn't work. My music is neither jazz nor classical. It's the music of the unemployed." (laughs)

The recent standards recordings have been met with enthusiastic praise but also with vehement criticism. How does Braxton reply to accusations that he sometimes plays themes and heads incorrectly? "From my point of view these are the wrong arguments. It always has been a part of the tradition to handle thematic material with creativity. I've been playing these compositions for over 40 years and therefore it's my urge to keep them fresh, even if I'm making so-called mistakes. It's ridiculous and insulting that I'm supposed to prove I can play this or that scale. For me, doubts about my whole work itself are behind these objections. 'Does he have
intellect as an African-American? Can he swing?' If there's a debate about my ability to play traditional material, then those people who question me have no idea of who I am. But I won't change my work and I won't spend the rest of my live with showing the jazz people that I can play _How High The Moon_ in its original form."