A few weeks ago I read that Anthony Braxton, John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, was recognized for lifetime achievement in jazz by the National Endowment for the Arts. This is “the nation’s highest honor in jazz,” and it comes on the heels of the Doris Duke Foundation’s recognition of Prof. Braxton’s uncategorizable gifts and achievements. He is no stranger to honors, having already received a MacArthur “genius” fellowship. He has been a devoted teacher of Wesleyan students in small and large ensembles, and he has mentored countless young musicians in his many years of teaching. Professor Braxton has announced his intention to retire in January, and so it is fitting that national organizations, faculty colleagues, staff, students and alumni join in celebrating the music he makes, teaches and inspires.
Here is one of my favorites, an old clip of Anthony playing John Coltrane’s “Impressions” at the Woodstock Jazz Festival (1981) :
And this quotation from Anthony is from the NEA’s Jazz Master’s interview:
For me, the recognition of my place in creative American music is quite a surprise–welcome surprise, that comes at the right time in my life. To be named an NEA Jazz Master recipient opens the door of reconciliation to the whole of my musical and cultural family, and completes my “inner nature and balance” in the most positive way. This is so because no matter the nomenclature, I have never separated myself from the great men and women whose creative work changed and elevated my life–and reason for wanting to live. The NEA Jazz Master family has profoundly shaped the dynamics of American and world culture–it doesn’t get any better than this family. The story of creative music is the story of America and the story of composite human vibrational dynamics. The discipline of creative music is one of the greatest gifts that the cosmic forces have given us.
Anthony Braxton has been a great gift to Wesleyan students for a long time. The vibrational dynamics he has inspired will joyfully resonate for a long, long time.