1/  First Meeting                              (Braxton,Parker,Graves)       14.49
  2/  Second Meeting                             (Braxton,Parker,Graves)       10.48
  3/  Third Meeting                              (Braxton,Parker,Graves)       16.34
  4/  Fourth Meeting                             (Braxton,Parker,Graves)       16.08
  5/  Fifth Meeting                              (Braxton,Parker,Graves)       5.11

          Recorded and mixed at Orange Music Studios, West Orange, New Jersey
          Mix translation: Bill Laswell
          Engineer: Robert Musso
          Assistant Engineer: James Dellatacoma
          Produced by John Zorn and Bill Laswell
          Executive Producer: John Zorn
          Associate Producer: Kazunori Sugiyama
          Mastered by Scott Hull
Anthony Braxton: saxophone; William Parker: bass; Milford Graves: percussion.

          2008 - Tzadik Records (USA), TZ 7626 (CD)
Note: Bill Laswell does not play on this album.


An unprecedented free jazz summit meeting of the highest order, Beyond Quantum features composer/multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton, percussionist Milford Graves and bassist William Parker in an impromptu blowing session recorded at Bill Laswell's studio.

Anthony Braxton has been enjoying a well-deserved resurgence in popularity, courtesy of a growing discography that features collaborations with former students turned rising stars including Taylor Ho Bynum, Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone. William Parker has been a galvanizing force in the international scene as key organizer of the Vision Festival, one of today's most important jazz festivals.

In comparison, the legendary Milford Graves is notoriously hermetic. Now a teacher at Bennington College, his days spent supporting Albert Ayler and the New York Art Quartet are long past; he rarely records or plays live. While Braxton and Parker have performed together in the past, this is Graves' first time playing with either, which alone makes this session of historical importance.

The trio operates as a true collective over the course of five lengthy excursions that explore a wide-range of shifting dynamics. Their relentless three-way dialog is a constant evolution of balanced, empathetic interplay.

In a state of continuous flux, Parker and Graves unveil oblique rhythmic patterns that vary in pitch, tone and texture. The woody timbre of Graves' percolating Africanized percussion creates a harmonious polytonal undercurrent for Parker to scatter fragmentary melodic kernels around sparse, well-placed cymbal accents. Parker's elastic phrasing provides Braxton a harmonic anchor for a breathtaking variety of abstract cadences from his arsenal of reeds. Braxton alternates horns frequently, ranging from sopranino to contra-bass saxophones, varying his tonal palette considerably.

Despite this democratic vortex of sound, Braxton often rises above the fray. Free of rigid compositional constraints in this loose, unstructured setting, he sounds inspired as he uncoils a vigorous combination of sinuous and staccato phrases in passages that veer from dolorous tranquility to coruscating frenzy.

Graves and Parker occasionally bring a Pan-African sensibility to the session, which invokes the Sixties-era New Thing. On "Second Meeting" Graves elicits vocal cries reminiscent of the tribal ululations popularized by Leon Thomas. Braxton complies with a mix of squawking sopranino phrases and guttural alto multiphonics while Parker plucks bright tones that recall West African bass patterns. "Fifth Meeting" dispenses with Western harmony and tonality altogether, as Graves' skittering percussion supports a ferocious duet between Braxton's sopranino and Parker's double reeds that culminates in a caterwauling frenzy reminiscent of North African trance music.

All-star free jazz sessions often sound better in theory than they do in execution; this meeting however, sounds timeless. Beyond Quantum is an unexpected and magical recording, a classic destined to top many year end lists.


Troy Collins (courtesy of the All About Jazz website)


If ever a recording needed to be trumpeted from the rooftops, it's this one, and perhaps we all owe a debt of gratitude to John Zorn for making it happen. This initial trio meeting of saxophonist Anthony Braxton, drummer Milford Graves, and ubiquitous bassist William Parker is a vanguard jazz fan's dream come true. Beyond Quantum places these three modern legends in a completely improvised setting in producer Bill Laswell's studio for 63 minutes of pure inspirational, communicative fire. First is the fact that Graves performs seldom and records even less. Secondly, he's never appeared with either of these men before.

The five selections on Beyond Quantum are all "meetings," ordered one through five, showcasing the three individuals as part of one dynamic, dramatic, and profoundly inventive unit that moves inside and outside the constraints of modal, melodic, and harmonic improvisation with a seemingly effortless groove. So much so in fact, that even fans of straighter, more structured jazz composition and improvisation will almost willingly accept this as proof that not only is free jazz not "dead," but this entry into its historical annals may offer some proof of it entering a new phase of creativity. Braxton plays alto, sopranino, bass, and concert bass saxophones, one at a time -- though he often employs more than a single horn in a selection. His playing is far from the more sparse theoretical articulations, and moves effortlessly between his more aggressive tonal investigations and spiritually (even cosmically) inspired expression. Check his wild bass clusters on "Second Meeting," his snake charming sopranino on "Third Meeting," and the nearly boppish blues sopranino streams on "Fourth Meeting." Parker uses all of his tricks here. Whether it's creating riff-like phrases or single high note pulses on his contrabass as he does on "First Meeting," the Eastern scalar repetitions as he does in the middle of "Second Meeting," the beautiful high chord repetitions near the end of "Third Meeting," or his amazing arco work in dialogue with Braxton on "Fourth Meeting," he is always the pinnacle of energy and focus, always supporting, always insisting on "further." Graves is just something else to behold here. He is a drummer who never pauses, each idea comes fluidly either from the one immediately preceding, or the one being articulated in the moment. He uses his sticks to be sure, but also brushes, his hands, and on "Second Meeting" in particular -- though in other places as well -- his voice as both a lyric(less) and percussive device. (Think of Leon Thomas with Pharoah Sanders, or better yet, Sanders and John Coltrane on Live in Seattle and you get the idea.) Graves is never overwhelming in his stream of "motion" ideas; he is a layered drummer, working cymbals and snares or toms with an instinctive -- by this point inspired -- lyricism inside one another in open-ended loops.

An added treat on this set is in the final or "Fifth Meeting," when Parker joins Braxton (on sopranino) on a double reed instrument. Both men begin speaking streams of lyric and chant-like ideas, accenting the spiritual fire between them. Graves moves into them both on his deep-toned tom toms as the horn phrases become a call and response dialogue. Though it's over an hour, Beyond Quantum is over all too quickly. It never once feels like an endurance test, and the flood of creativity, passion, and direct communication between participants leaves the listener not breathless, but astonished. This is a serious contender for vanguard jazz recording of 2008.

Thom Jurek (courtesy of the All Music Guide website)


One disc approximately 62 minutes. Excellent sound. Recorded and mixed by Bill Laswell. This recording continues to prove that Anthony Braxton(saxophones) continues to make music that matters. To anyone with knowledge of this genre of music the three players on this disc need no introduction. Braxton, of course,has been recording for many years. I can remember when he would hustle chess matches to pay for some of his concerts when his style of music had fallen out of favor.

Luckily for us all he is now a much revered musician and teacher. Milford Graves (percussion) has been in the avant garde scene for many years as well. His understanding of percussion work is outstanding-sometimes it sounds almost telepathic. Along with Sonny Murray (another drummer not on this recording) he has consistently stayed true to his style of music. William Parker,(bass)while not as well-known,has also made quite a name for himself in "outside" jazz circles. Together the music that they create is truly wondrous.

Spread over five "meetings",the music on this disc ebbs and flows with a combination of big city grit and sounds that might have eminated out of Africa. The first track,at medium tempo and fairly dense,begins immediately with no real build-up or statement of theme,and continues to increase in density to it's final resolution. This track sets the tone for most of the other tracks. On the second track is where the African feel comes into play. Voices are used in conjunction with the three instruments and the wordless vocals add a fourth instrument into the mix. To often with music of this type the instrumental inter-play are the only sounds used to create what the players want to achieve. The use of vocalizations is very refreshing and gives this track a real organic feel. This track also benefits by a slow build-up to it's eventual climax.

The third "meeting" is dense and very involved,with few spaces between notes. While it's nice it is nothing out of the ordinary. The fourth"meeting" starts out slowly with an ebb and flow between the instruments which gives this track a real identity. Graves' percussion touches are very apparent and hold the track together and keep the music from winding out of control. The fifth and final "meeting" is very dense from the get-go. Braxton is wailing away with Graves not far behind. There are two horns on this track,playing over and with each other. Parker's bass is the grounding element throughout these sides,and though it's understated, his bass-playing holds everything together. Together,Braxton and Graves weave a sonic blanket that's very satisfying.

This, of course,is the type of music that begs to be listened to over several days. Each time something new will pop up and will reward the listener with added delights. The sound is warm and organic feeling with good spatial qualities between the instruments. One can only hope that these three people will continue playing (and recording) together in the future for the benefit of us all.

4 stars out of 5

Stuart Jefferson (courtesy of the website)