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Anthony Braxton: Sextet (Parker) 1993 (New Braxton House)

Review of album from multi-reedist and composer exploring music written by and connected to Charlie Parker

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Cover of Anthony Braxton album Sextet (Parker) 1993 on the New Braxton House label
Cover of Anthony Braxton album Sextet (Parker) 1993 on the New Braxton House label

Few jazz musicians have inspired obsessive devotion like Charlie Parker. The masters, alternate takes and airchecks, not to mention Dean Benedetti’s raw but fascinating live recordings, all prove that Parker could constantly reinvent all manner of melody and harmony. That caliber of brain merits fanatical research. Anthony Braxton’s legion of devotees might not rival Parker’s, but the composer/multireedist has certainly delivered enough material to keep his fans occupied throughout his five-decade career. Still, Sextet (Parker) 1993 stands as both a massive statement and artistic accomplishment: 11 CDs of music written by and connected with Charlie Parker, performed by a Braxton ensemble during a European tour.

The HatHut label originally issued 15 tracks from these sessions as Anthony Braxton’s Charlie Parker Project 1993. Now we have all 68 tracks by the leader with Phil Smoker (trumpet), Ari Brown (tenor and soprano saxophones), Misha Mengelberg (piano), Joe Fonda (bass) and Pheeroan akLaff (drums). (Han Bennink sits in for akLaff on one disc.) While Braxton doesn’t exactly avoid the classics in favor of more obscure tunes, he chooses from a wide swath of the Parker discography. The two compositions that recur the most have to be the oddest choices: “Repetition,” from the awkward pairing of Bird and Neal Hefti’s Hollywood-style orchestra; and “Klactoveedsedstene” [sic] from Parker’s Dial sessions. Six versions of each appear throughout the set.

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