Anthony Braxton Project

For Alto tracks

There are several reasons why the correct attribution of the tracks on the first side of For Alto is controversial. To begin with, there are nine tracks on the LP, but in the liner notes and in his Composition Notes, Braxton originally identified only seven compositions on this album. The compositions were not given numbers until the 1980s, and some of the composition structures had changed by the time they were numbered-for example, 8E was originally "stage 2" of what became 8B. The original album dedications do not entirely match up with the list of compositions he gave for this album in his catalog of works.  Wachmeister, Graham Lock and Chuck Nessa have all tried to clarify, but I doubt this will ever be fully resolved. Braxton doubts his own ability to shed light on the question at this point. [Braxton interview, March 19, 2006.] 

The second, third, and fourth sides of the original LP are not very controversial: Side two - composition 8D (Ann and Peter Allen); Side three - compositions 8C (Susan Axelrod) and 8G (Kenny McKenny); Side four - composition 8B (Leroy Jenkins). On the album note, side one is listed as four "stages" (of a single composition?) but the LP had five tracks. To add confusion, the stages are listed as: "1. stage one; 2. stage four; 3. stage two and 4. stage five."  Braxton’s composition notes list four compositions for side one:  8A, 8F, 8H, 8(A/B) blues. The first thirty second item ("stage one") is generally accepted to be a very short version of Composition 8A (Jack Gell), and the third item ("stage two") is taken to be Composition 8H (Murray De Pillars). What about tracks two, four and five? Track two is listed as “for John Cage” in the liner notes. However, Braxton lists it in his Composition Notes as the Cecil Taylor piece, and Graham Lock in Mixtery (p. 264-65) concurs with that, based on the content of the music.  However, Lock is at a loss to explain tracks four and five. Following the Composition Notes, Lock thinks the fourth piece is in fact an improvisation based on Compositions 8A and 8B. Lock then speculates that the fifth track (the twenty second long note) may be composition 8E for John Cage. In contrast, Nessa concluded that track five is actually the tail end of track four. He says that Braxton confirmed this to him. So the CD reissue put them together as track four dedicated to Cecil Taylor. As Nessa explained in an interview, "The Braxton's were tapes that Anthony had recorded in his apartment at the time [actually at Parkway Community Center – jp; Nessa is probably confusing the Braxton recording with the solo recordings Roscoe Mitchell did at this house with Terry Martin’s help] and they had lots of distortion and noise so there were a number of things we could clean up and a number of things we couldn't. One interesting thing is that side A had always had five tracks but only four title listings. The first and last tracks on the record were about thirty seconds long but they were separately banded and leadered on the tapes so that is how they originally appeared on the record. I looked it up in the books and they were really unclear as to what was what. The last title listed was a dedication to Cecil Taylor which I found identified as this thirty second held tone at the end of the record. That didn't strike me as quite right as what Braxton would write for Cecil Taylor so I called Tony up and asked him. I said that I had figured that the last bit belonged to the previous track and that the space in between made sense but that rather than just have dead air shouldn't there be some ambient room noise to connect the two so that it stayed connected? He said that that was exactly right and he was happy to straighten it out. He said, 'As a young man on my very second opportunity to record, I screwed up, Nessa...and now after all these years you come along and straighten it out.' He was really delighted to hear that For Alto was coming out. He said he figured he would never see it as a CD, that it would be issued as a memorial album." [Chuck Nessa, "Nessa on the AACM."] Hans Wachtmeister has yet another schema, concluding that side three is all Susan Axelrod, and that the fifth track on side one is the Kenny McKenny piece.