George Braith – Extension (1965)

This album is the high-point in the recording career of soul-jazz sax man George Braith, a New York native whose music didn’t set the world on its end but he shaped a distinctive sound by occasionally playing two saxes simultaneously, having been influenced by the mighty Rahsaan Roland Kirk. But where Kirk would use his multiple horns (sometimes three, sometimes tandem flute and nose flute) in unprecedented ways, often with one as a drone, frequently in counterpoint, very occasionally playing completely separate melodies all while employing a virtuosic circular breathing technique that allowed him to build a world of uninterrupted noise, Braith tended to blow blunt unison lines with his saxes. Where Kirk was looping circles, Braith was angles and stutters. But comparisons are unfair because Rahsaan Roland Kirk was not like other Earthlings. George Braith cannot approach those levels of jaw-dropping awesomeness, however with Extension he makes a claim for a uniqueness of his own devising. Tightly composed and compact, the sound of two closely aligned saxes has a weird dissonance that blends easily with the choppy jazz organ that likewise sits in the mix like an impatient buzz saw. The antidote is Grant Green’s warm guitar that prevents the group sound being overly top-endy and his soloing is typically uncoiled. The double-sax playing doesn’t dominate this album like some of his other LPs and his single-horn soloing is quite lyrical. However Braith’s compositions are the star attraction, a sort of restrained bizarre, far-ranging musical events overtly thrust themselves at the listener evoking an uneasy beachside carnival atmosphere, it’s daytime and everyone has had too much sugar. Some moments become relaxed and artful but eeriness is ever-present. The album succeeds in sustaining the facade of unity through to the final grooves whereupon you find yourself wanting more. His 1963 release Soulstream mines a very similar vein and satisfaction can be found there. This isn’t the cornerstone to anything that came after it in jazz, but it swings and remains in the moment as it comes and goes from your life.

 

 

 

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