19–21 January 2020
Thrilled to welcome back the great Anthony Braxton to OTO after his incredible residency here in 2018. This time Braxton returns with his new Standard Quartet, performing jazz standards alongside Alexander Hawkins (piano), Neil Charles (double bass) and Stephen Davies (drums) for the first time.
One of the fundamental figures in the music of the late 20th century, his work as a saxophonist and composer has set trailblazing precedents by tapping into and expanding new conceptual and instrumental possibilities. To this day, Braxton remains a towering force in new music and this should be an unmissable three nights.
Anthony Braxton / alto sax, soprano sax, sopranino sax
Alexander Hawkins / piano
Neil Charles / double bass
Stephen Davis / drums
“A scientist and an artist, Braxton seems content developing of his own musical galaxy. There's nobody quite like him, and if his music is the diametric opposite of easy listening, it has acted as an antidote to creative conservatism throughout his lifetime.” – The Guardian
“Anthony Braxton is of course renowned as one of the seminal composers in the creative music of the 1960s to the present: but throughout his career, has nonetheless also proven himself to be one of the most dedicated and singular of interpreters of the music of others. Both live and on record, he has probed a vast range of what could be thought of as the ‘standards’: both from the ‘Great American Songbook’, and from the pens of many of the master composer-performers, including the likes of Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Warne Marsh, Andrew Hill, Lennie Tristano, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, and many others.
These interpretations of standards have taken the same kaleidoscopic range of approaches apparent when Braxton tackles his own music. Compare, for example, the 1971 performance of ‘No Greater Love’ with the group ‘Circle’, with the standard tunes appearing on ‘Solo (Pisa) 1982)’; or the version of ‘Ornithology’ in the company of Tete Montoliu, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and Tootie Heath (‘In The Tradition’) with that recorded in duo with George Lewis (‘Elements of Surprise’). A further series of albums (among them ‘Knitting Factory (Piano/Quartet) 1994’ and ‘Quintet (Tristano) 2014’) has seen Braxton helming standards ensembles in radical and visionary fashion from the piano; whilst the ‘Solo Piano (Standards) 1995’ finds him parsing his chosen repertoire in a manner reminiscent of the great ‘Mingus Plays Piano’ album. And then there are the glorious outliers throughout his discography: just one example being the extraordinary performances alongside Dave Brubeck, Roy Haynes, Lee Konitz and others on Brubeck’s ‘All The Things We Are’ album.” – Alexander Hawkins
The development of Braxton's unique musical language began as an exploration of rhythms and textures, which he combined with techniques gained from experimental composition, from graphic notation to serialism all the way to multimedia presentation. In the interim, he can look back on and celebrate over four decades of kaleidoscopic output: recordings, compositions, theoretical works and university teaching appointments.
Braxton has remained a controversial figure among musicians and critics, since he moves with complete autonomy between diverse musical worlds and has absorbed the influences of John Coltrane, Paul Desmond and Eric Dolphy with equal enthusiasm as those of John Cage or Karlheinz Stockhausen. The latter preoccupations have led to plenty of criticism from traditionalists. There is however zero cause for doubt regarding the originality and rich world of ideas that Braxton’s output represents. He has managed in his resourceful way to reconcile the intuitive aspects of free jazz with the formal and harmonic methods of contemporary classical music. Braxton has composed works for orchestra and operas – he has experimented with unusual line-ups, writing for and performing with 100 tubas or four orchestras where it suits his fancy. He has created myriad complex works that he uses as jumping off points for improvisations, deconstructions and remixes.
Alexander Hawkins is musician who is ‘unlike anything else in modern creative music’ (Ni Kantu) and whose recent work has reached a ‘dazzling new apex’ (Downbeat).
As a pianist, he has been described as ‘remarkable...possessing staggering technical ability and a fecund imagination as both player and composer.’ Concerning his organ playing, critic Brian Morton recently commented that ‘[t]he most interesting Hammond player of the last decade and more, [Hawkins] has already extended what can be done on the instrument.’
His writing has been said to represent ‘a fundamental reassertion of composition within improvised music’ (Point of Departure), and his voice one of the ‘most vividly distinctive...in modern jazz’ (The Jazzmann).
An in-demand collaborator as well as soloist, composer, and bandleader, Hawkins continues to be heard live and on record with vast array of contemporary leaders of all generations, including the likes of Evan Parker, John Surman, Joe McPhee, Mulatu Astatke, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton, Marshall Allen, Han Bennink, Hamid Drake, Rob Mazurek, Taylor Ho Bynum, Harris Eisenstadt, Matana Roberts, and Shabaka Hutchings, amongst many others. He has also been noted for a number of years for his performances in the bands of legendary South African drummer, Louis Moholo-Moholo.
Concert appearances have taken him to major club, concert and festival stages worldwide.
“…Hawkins is a really vital link in a long historical chain, and his ability to sculpt his own language from a deeply rooted creative bedrock is compelling” - Jazzwise
“Sounds like all the future jazz you might imagine without ever being able to conceive of the details” - The Guardian
Neil Charles is a bassist, electronic producer and composer. He regularly performs, records and tours with numerous jazz, classical and contemporary music bands and ensembles like alex Hawkins, mingus big band, has played with Terence Blanchard, black top and is a member of the electro-acoustic jazz trio, Zed-U.