103CD - Pat Thomas / The Locals - Play The Music Of Anthony Braxton - CD plus downloadTweet
An exciting live performance recorded at the festival Konfrontationen Nickelsdorf in 2006, featuring six early compositions by Anthony Braxton arranged for the band by Pat Thomas.
When Discus Music asked Pat what recording he had in his personal archive that he would most like to see released, this one was Pat’s choice. Pat’s arrangements of these angular melodies allow Alex Ward’s stratospheric clarinet to fly over the band’s churning grooves, and much excitement was generated in the process – as can be heard from the wild audience response!
Pat Thomas - piano, melodica
Alex Ward - clarinet
Evan Thomas - electric guitar
Dominic Lash - electric bass
Darren Hasson-Davis - drums
Oxford brings the funk to Anthony Braxton on this wildly entertaining set from the 2006 Konfrontation Festival in Ulrichsberg, Austria. Pianist Pat Thomas's arrangements lay in the pocket funk and reggae grooves under the oblique themes, exploding any notions of Braxton's music as forbiddingly cerebral. The sly curls of wah guitar on Composition 40b recall electric Miles, topped with avant Dixie clarinet from Alex Ward and dissonant piano splashes from the leader. Composition 6c opens with a bass and guitar scramble reminiscent of Saccharine Trust's punk improv, until the groove kicks in and Ward lets rip with vaulting glissandi. Composition 6i sets a loping rhythm against a wonky clarinet motif and Thomas's rhythmic clusters. It's such a joy you almost forget how audacious it is. - Stewart Smith, THE WIRE
Asked by Discus label boss Martin Archer if he had any unissued recordings he’d like released, Pat Thomas unhesitatingly offered this live set, recorded at the Konfrontation festival in Nicklesdorf back in 2006. The Locals Play the Music of Anthony Braxton offers Thomas’ funk- and reggae-tinged arrangements of Anthony Braxton compositions: a meeting that turns out to be based, not on incongruity or sharpened contrast, but on a sympathetic moulding of Braxton’s pieces to fit different formal shapes (and vice versa). Braxton’s own pieces, as this act of recasting suggests, are not exactly idiomatic, though the selection is mainly of pieces from the more jazz-inflected records of the 1970s Arista period. Braxton’s own music has not often been critically linked to other forms of popular music, with the exception of jazz (and the occasional invocation of John Philip Sousa). Yet Braxton’s first musical hero, as he told Graham Lock, was Frankie Lymon, and his first musical venture a high school doo wop group; he professes admiration for James Brown, Janis Joplin, and Captain Beefheart, and has collaborated with members of Wilco and Deerhoof; while his son Tyondai’s Math Rock band Battles has at points outstripped Braxton Sr.’s own music in fame. A useful point of reference for the Locals’ Braxton – in spirit if not in form – might be Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time bands, with their interlocking, relentless rhythms and joyous melodic invention. (Recall, after all, that Braxton stayed in Coleman’s loft space when he first came to New York; meanwhile, Thomas and Orphy Robinson’s Black Top played with Prime Time bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma at the London Jazz Festival in 2014.) I also invoke Prime Time to emphasize that – whatever the racialized make-up of the band itself (largely white) – Thomas’ arrangements situate Braxton firmly in a tradition of Black popular music. We hear the funk (or reggae) in Braxton and the Braxton in funk – the rhythmic edges and overlaps that both separate and breach genre. When critics talk about “fusion” they might, indeed, turn to records like this for reference.
Split equally between the acoustic and the electric, The Locals’ unconventional line-up features Alex Ward on clarinet, swooping and diving in joyous, controlled abandon; Thomas on piano and occasional melodica – unselfishly preferring a role as arranger and bandleader than as soloist – and his brother Evan Thomas on chattering, stinging electric guitar. The fundamental grooves are delivered by Dominic Lash in a rare outing on bass guitar, supple yet rock-steady, ably assisted by Darren Hasson-Davies on drums. Rather than a theme-solos-theme approach, several voices are often in play at once, entwining around Braxton’s figures or inventions of their own within the leading guidelines of the groove. This is above all a cooperative contrapuntally-minded band, unfurling collective improvisations in which each voice can be heard at once, individually and together, like the intricate ink lines of Mark Browne’s cover art. Opening track “Composition 40B” sets a number of parameters for the record as a whole: the centrality of Lash and Hasson-Davies’ groove, Evan Thomas’ gnarly, barking guitar tone, Ward’s soaring wails as melodic anchor, and Pat Thomas’ rarely-acknowledged genius at “comping” (rarely has a well-placed dissonance been delivered with such relish or to such delightful effect). Ward and Evan Thomas pick up fragments of Braxton’s melodic cells and toss them around, along the way discovering inventive counter-melodies, while there’s a passage where Thomas’ guitar plays some simple scalar figures with inexorable force that’s just sheer delight. In Braxton’s original rendition of “Composition 6C” (“C-M=B05”) on The Montreux/Berlin Concerts, a sawed circus bassline and mirthful trombone and saxophone set up a deliberately unwieldy, semi-comic framework for virtuoso solo exploration. The Locals turn it into a bona-fide hit single, Evan Thomas’ opening guitar squall leading to a solid groove and Braxton’s melody dancing out in slick yet rough-edged unison, inexorable and irresistible. “Composition 115” opens with Ward solo, delivering a more conventionally Braxtonesque account of the piece, but the bassline groove that begins around 40 seconds – replacing John Lindberg’s expertly morphing walking bass on the 1984 original – is having none of it. “Composition 23B,” one of Braxton’s catchiest, debuted on New York Fall 1974 – and was recently rendered in sprightly jazz double-time by the Artifacts Trio (Nicole Mitchell, Tomeka Reid, and Mike Reed) on their 2015 album of AACM covers. Once again, The Locals entirely remake the piece, as Lash’s hushed harmonics, wavering pops and electrified strings segue into a repeating groove with Thomas’ piano offering snappy, dissonant chords and Ward insinuating the melody to Evan Thomas’ oblique, perfectly-placed melodic commentary. “Composition 6I” channels a reggae bassline: Pat Thomas briefly turns the inside of the piano into King Tubby’s recording studio, before delivering the melody in tandem with Ward’s clarinet, his clusters splashing in the best Don Pullen manner. On the final piece, “Composition 23G” has (Pat) Thomas’ melodica and (Evan) Thomas’ electronic feedback vaguely recalling the outer-space tendencies of Miles Davis’ 1970 bands – imagine Thomas’ melodica as Davis’ organ in miniature – with Evan Thomas offering some particularly and wonderfully gnarly feedback throughout, the track ending on Ward and Lash’s diminuendo’ing melody, like slowly-popping bubblewrap. A joy from start to finish, and one of last year’s finest releases. Excellent music in its own right, in the process this album tells us something about Braxton’s music that might return us to it with fresh ears. – David Grundy, POINT OF DEPARTURE https://www.pointofdeparture.org/PoD75/PoD75MoreMoments5.html
The ability of a composition to exist in different genres, versions, or permutations is, to me, evidence of its power, and, more than anyone, I think Anthony Braxton baked this idea into his mix. Listening to the early recordings of Braxton (mainly the Arista records, which is where most of the tunes on this album come from) has been one of the great joys of my life, but following him for the past forty years, I know that he is more than the sound of his recordings. Braxton has developed the idea of “trans-idiomatic” music, i.e., music that exists across boundaries. Not in the surface po-mo sense, more eclectic than thou, playing a quilt of genres very quickly. Or even making a “wide variety” of music over the course of a career.
Braxton’s compositions are trans-idiomatic in the sense that they conform to no particular idiom or aesthetic, and thus, can be made to work in all of them. For example, the Braxton album, Five Pieces 1975, really is a jazz album (go figure), with bass, drums, horns. And while a tune like “23g” to me sounds like a post bop free jazz tune, there is nothing in the composition that requires it to do so. The structures, insinuations, and improvocations written into the score don’t require that it come out “jazz like.” There’s nothing in the score of a Braxton tune that even requires them to be Braxton-esque.
Pat Thomas has taken these Braxton compositions and arranged them for his band, The Locals, and has come out with something that brings out all of the joy, power, invention, and intrigue of Braxton’s music, without sounding Braxton-esque. The band (Thomas on piano and melodica, Alex Ward on clarinet, Evan Thomas electric guitar, Dominic Lash, electric bass, and Darren Hasson-Davis, drums) is wearing a downtown funk hat, with wonderful, repetitious bass and drum lines that are deeply in a groove. The backbeat keeps calling attention to itself, not because it’s intrusive, but because it never occurred to me how well Braxton structures would work with a backbeat. Paul Thomas’s piano operates at the level of a very energetic Don Pullen. Falling down onto the rhythm with a quality of strained mercy (like the rain), while Evan Thomas’s guitar is the broad brush that ties it all together, connecting the levels and making it all so plausible. Ward finds himself cast, inevitably, into the Braxton role, but he is not merely Braxton-ing. The compositions, and Braxton’s ethic, wouldn’t allow that. Ward’s stories and attacks are his own and I love the heck out of them (until there is no heck left, at all).
Aside from being an amazing good time — really, fave album so far this year — this album is a gift of vision. Like seeing a geographic feature from a new angle for the first time, you gain insight into not only what it looks like but how it exists in the world in three dimensions. I feel like I know more about 23g (and 6i and 40b etc.) than I did before and know more about the experience of them. I created a Spotify list of Braxton’s performances of these pieces , in the running order of the Local’s recording  . It is fascinating listening to them side by side and discerning what Braxton and the composition demanded, and where there was space was left for the musician to be (not where you would necessarily expect); where things are emphasized (funk floor foil to the piano and clarinet), and others de-emphasized (not so many of those long, sinewy, winding melodies played in glorious, obsessive unison).
So, just to sum up: fascinating, amazing good time. - Gary Chapin, FREE JAZZ BLOG
Sometimes the best “covers” are reinterpretations of original works that don’t resemble said originals at first blush. But on further listens, a resemblance emerges in structures if not melodies. Pat Thomas’ newly-released archival recording of Anthony Braxton pieces fits nicely into that category. Thomas is a prolific and well-versed, pianist, composer and improviser based in the UK. On this effort, which was recorded live at the Konfrontation Festival, Ulrichsberg in 2006, he is joined by Alex Ward on clarinet, Ewan Thomas on electric guitar, Dominic Lash on bass, and Darren Hasson-Davis on drums.
There is no shortage of Braxton reinterpretations, including notable 2020 releases from Thumbscrew and Tropos. But where the source material was apparent in these more recent recordings, this 15-year-old offering does not scream “Braxton”. Instead, Thomas arranged a number of early Braxton pieces (Compositions 40b, 6c, 115, 23b, 6i, and 23g) into 6-9 minute bursts of guided improv. The signature Braxton angularity is present, notably so on Composition 115 as one example. But the group also adds elements of groove and a pseudo-funkiness that one does not often associate with the composer. Indeed, the duels between piano, guitar, and clarinet are worth of attention alone. Thomas, of course, throws in his percussive keyboard pounding here and there, which is always welcome.
If anything, Thomas and company take a loose approach to Braxton that is refreshing and unexpected. Highly recommended whether or not you are an established friendly experiencer. https://avantmusicnews.com/2021/01/31/amn-reviews-pat-thomas-the-locals-play-the-music-of-anthony-braxton-2006-discus-music/
To the casual listener, finding an entry point into the complex and substantial body of work by US composer Anthony Braxton can seem like a daunting task. It seems the only successful way to truly gain access to Braxton's multi-faceted musical universe is to simply leap right in and enjoy the ride. To some extent this is exactly what UK pianist-composer and improviser Pat Thomas and his group The Locals has proven here.....With clarinet player Alex Ward to the fore, the group strom through a selection of Braxton's early compositions.....that have been loosened from their academic conservatory moorings and given a poundng new groove that floats in the direction of funk. Despite this tweaking, Braxton's original compositional blueprints have not been totally discarded, but used more as a guide that prompts the musicians to take the music in a different (perhaps more accessible) direction. The hardcore Braxton devotee will perhaps be occasionally confounded by Thomas' approach, but throughout this thoroughly enjoyable exercise the spirit of the original force that created this music remains defiantly intact - Edwin Pouncey, JAZZWISE
Piano and melodica player Pat Thomas’s personal choice of archive material led him to choose a concert at the Kronfontation Festival, Ulrichsberg in 2006 for this 2021 Discus release. I don’t know a lot about Anthony Braxton’s music except that it is very often at a precipitous level of avant-garde that only the most devoted of free jazzers would get into. Having said that I also know from what I have heard that Braxton has been known to play ‘standards’ and his music shows a highly advanced level of musicianship and invention so it was a daunting task that The Locals took on and I didn’t really know what to expect. There are six early Braxton compositions tackled here, all with the name ‘Compositions’, most with a number and letter beside them. What surprised me is how accessible the music turned out to be with the rhythm section of Dominic Lash and Darren Hasson-Davis doing an excellent job in providing a strong undertow of funky grooves, perfect for Alex Ward’s virtuosic clarinet flourishes of sound and Pat Thomas’s keyboards. I smiled to myself on listening to one composition (Don’t ask me which!) to find that I had written down, “a playful swamp stomp with laughing clarinet building to a fantastically anarchic climax.” The line-up is completed by Evan Thomas on electric guitar and I’m not entirely sure how I would define the music except to say it sure makes you feel good and gets the speakers bouncing. Judging the by the audience response I think they agree! - Phil Jackson, ACID DRAGON
Discus Music has the policy to search for relevant (live) recordings that remained on the shelf so far. This goes for releases they realized for recordings by Keith Tippett and Tony Oxley. This time they asked Pat Thomas to have a look in his archive and to propose a recording that would make a relevant release. And yes, he came up with a steaming live performance recorded at the Konfrontation Festival, Ulrichsberg in 2006. We hear Pat Thomas (piano, melodica) with his quintet The Locals (Alex Ward, clarinet; Evan Thomas, electric guitar; Dominic Lash, electric bass and Darren Hasson-Davis, drums), performing six early works by Anthony Braxton in arrangements by Thomas. To be precise they perform compositions ‘40b’, ‘6c’, ‘115’, ‘23b’, ‘6i’ and ‘23g’. Pat Thomas is a pianist from London who played with Derek Bailey, Tony Oxley, Lol Coxhill, a.o... In more recent times he did programs of music by Monk and Ellington. No idea how Thomas made his choice from the immense oeuvre of Braxton. And what is more surprising he decided to create funky renditions of the original. My knowledge of Braxton’s work is limited, but I’m pretty sure that funk never was his thing. To make a comparison I listened to some of the composition in a performance with Braxton himself. Like ‘Composition 40 B’ in a live performance from 1977 of George Lewis, Muhal Richard Abrams, Mark Helias, Charles ‘Bobo’ Shaw and Anthony Braxton. That makes clear how drastic Thomas’ rearrangements are and what a find it is to put some funk in these compositions. It really works for most of the tracks that have an inescapable groove. Also, the intros of ‘6c’and ‘115’ are great. On the other hand, while I got accustomed to this approach it became a bit one-sided for me. Happily ‘23b’ and ‘23g’ are an exception to this. Nevertheless, this is a very fresh and lively recording, offering an original and surprising perspective on the music of Braxton. And the first release by this enthusiastic unit. - Dorf Mulder, VITAL WEEKLY
La musique d’Anthony Braxton est ouverte, modelable à l’envi et constitue un trésor qui peut paraître légèrement ésotérique à quiconque n’a pas pris le temps de s’intéresser aux clés multiples et enrichissantes que le multianchiste étasunien laisse régulièrement tout au long de sa carrière. Nous avons eu, ici, de larges occasions d’en livrer de modestes analyses.
Rares sont les musiciens qui peuvent s’enorgueillir d’avoir dans leur musique embrassé le jazz, la musique contemporaine et d’avoir par ailleurs multiplié les rencontres et les ponts. Le pianiste anglais Pat Thomas, lui, l’a très bien compris : compagnon de Derek Bailey et Lol Coxhill, il livre avec son quintet britannique The Locals l’un des albums les plus étonnants et les plus excitants de ce début d’année. Avec le bassiste Dominic Lash (notamment entendu avec Taylor Ho Bynum dans un Live at Oxford sorti en 2008 chez FMR), le piano très free et indomptable de Thomas transporte la musique de Braxton dans un univers où funk cabossé, reggae impair et groove infectieux lui donnent d’autres reflets, à l’image de cette « Composition 6c » qui tourne comme un mantra dans la clarinette d’Alex Ward pendant qu’une base rythmique puissante atomise tout alentour avec une excitation jouissive.
Premier constat, qui n’étonnera guère les aficionados de Braxton : sa musique s’en porte très bien. Elle n’est pas déconstruite par The Locals, comme c’est souvent le cas avec une adaptation d’univers dans un schéma propre au groupe. L’approche de Braxton est forcément différente ; pour une large part, sa musique est faite pour ça, pour se transformer, au gré des orchestres et des besoins, en cette plaisante gourmandise qui donne à la mythique « composition 23G », jouée avec Wheeler dans les années 70 et base de toute la réflexion musicale de son quartet des années 80, un caractère extrêmement vindicatif, avec ce piano qui se heurte à un mur du son dans toutes les directions. C’est hérissé d’électricité du côté de la guitare d’Evan Thomas, et puissamment rocailleux dans la batterie impeccable de Darren Hasson-Davies, tous deux des proches du pianiste. Le morceau ne se livre pas tout de suite : on en découvre la structure à mesure que le piano en effrite la masse brute.
La grande finesse et l’intelligence de Pat Thomas, qui est manifestement très acculturé à l’œuvre de Braxton, est d’avoir choisi des morceaux dans un corpus très favorable à l’expression de son orchestre. Hormis la « Composition 115 », qu’une guitare pleine de riffs funk pilote en compagnie de la clarinette de Ward, toutes les partitions choisies sont issues des années 70, notamment de la période Arista ; ce sont des compositions courtes, souvent conçues pour induire l’improvisation collective au sein de grands ensembles (le Creative Orchestra en sera très friand, par exemple). Ce sont aussi, les compositions 6 et 23 en tête, des morceaux qui ont traversé les décennies. Ce sont également les prémices des réflexions autour des Pulse Track Structures qui constituent l’une des premières grammaires structurées du compositeur, notamment avec Marilyn Crispell et Gerry Hemingway. The Locals Play The Music of Anthony Braxton est un formidable hommage, malin et abouti. On prend un plaisir fou à s’immiscer ainsi dans cette lecture très personnelle et pleine d’estime pour le matériel originel, plus que jamais intertextuel. - CITIZEN JAZZ
When Anthony Braxton first started to make a cultural impression around half a century ago accusations of not swinging were aimed at his music. Passing time and the always dubious benefit of hindsight makes us realise that such accusations are mild by comparison with the cesspool full of trolls that can be an aspect of life these days, and by way of contrast with the charge of being too cerebral that’s also been aimed at Braxton’s music The Locals here make it downright greasy.
No doubt Braxton purists would be aghast at the transformation, but this band makes of Braxton’s music something utterly removed from previously recorded versions, as on Composition 23b, to be found in an earlier form on the Arista LP catalogue no. AL-4032, crate-diggers, and recorded on that occasion by a quartet which included the perhaps unlikely figure of Kenny Wheeler. Over a bed of loping funk Pat Thomas hints at the tenuous links between Braxton’s world and that of Cecil Taylor.
The solar system unto itself that is Braxton’s legacy on record (so far) is such that the rudimentary exercise of compare and contrast is pointless. Such is the transformation that this music has to be dealt with on its own terms. In the case of Composition 6i this amounts to the kind of genetically modified simplification which ensures that Hasson-Davis can mark the time with metronomic simplicity, while Thomas and Alex Ward get busy.
In days like these when surprises are usually unpleasant, this set is some kind of opposite, not least because it highlights how the work of a highly individual sensibility can be transformed by the highly individual sensibilities of others. It’s all positively human. – Nic Jones, Jazz Journal