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Complete Anthony Braxton Arista Recordings

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Eight CDs represents a big undertaking both for listeners and Mosaic, the label that wrote the book on boxed sets and started releasing them when they were vinyl-only. For Anthony Braxton, though, eight CDs is a mere drop in the bucket. But what a drop it is, compiling six fruitful years that yielded nine groundbreaking albums, none of which have been available in any form since their initial release.

Complete Arista Recordings also inadvertently pays tribute to a period of the music industry that will never be seen again. In 1974, Braxton was courted by two American record labels. The composer chose Clive Davis’ nascent Arista over Atlantic since he would be working with Steve Backer, the former head of Impulse, who understood the music, and Michael Cuscuna, now of Mosaic and other reissue projects. It was a wise choice, as they gave him carte blanche to record everything from his quartet to double-albums of solo saxophone and, in a move that must’ve sent the bean counters through the roof, a three-record composition involving four 39-piece orchestras. That kind of investment in an artist’s vision is long gone, at least as far as major labels are concerned.

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