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ALEX PAXTON

Composer. Improvising-trombonist.


“In a dark, time this music will make you smile . . .This is the most joyous sound I’ve heard in ages!”
New York Times


MUSIC for BOSCH PEOPLE (2021)

puplished by Birmingham Record company and NMC label

Music for Concerts
Music for Operas (also music-theatre & vocal)
Music for Jazz
Music for Films
Music for Theatres
Music for Children

Album: MUSIC for BOSCH PEOPLE
Orchestrations & Arrangements
EDUCATOR
Discography
Educator
Art

Its kind of like this;
Like minimal but loads more notes like video-games but with more song like jazz but much more gay like old music but more current like yummy sweet but more stick like paint but more scratch like tapestry but filthily like prayer but more loud like loud groove and more rude like fingers and faces too but somehow more smelly like smelly things cooking with more chew and change like louder prayers that groove with like stinking-hot-pink in poo-brown but even more desperate-like than that like drums and Dream Musics




Reviews

Music for Bosch People has been reviewed / featured by
New York Times (USA), New Music Show (radio 3) The Wire Magazine (UK), Jazzwise Magazine (UK), TEMPO (UK), POSITIONEN (Germany),
Point of departure  (USA),  MusikTexte (Germany), SoundmakingPodcast (Int.), The Trombonist  Magazine (UK), LondonJazz News (UK), Scottish Jazz Space (UK)
Prxludes (UK), The Sampler  (UK), Cooky Ma Loo (Au), Resonance FM  (UK), European Modern Jazz (Europe), A closer listen


“In a dark time this music will make you smile.....antic experimentalism.....manic contrast heavy.....This is the most joyous sound I’ve heard in ages!” New York Times

“Paxton, Like Hieronymous Bosch, is one of those rare artists who manage to make a virtue of excess.
The turbulent and joyful spirit of his music bubbles up irrepressibly in his trombone playing, and courses torrentially though his flamboyantly unpredictable compositions. . .Surfing the crest of their exuberance is an extraordinary experience.”
The Wire Magazine


“Step forward Alex Paxton, incipient savior of difficult listening . . . formidable virtuosity. It seems to be a meditation on virtuosity: Paxton’s own take on Charlie Parker-style bebop or Paganini. . . . mountains of crisp detail that are legible when taken singly but accumulate into a surreal and overwhelming whole” 
Positionen


“Operatic Game Boy music played by a virtuosic motley crew that’s inexplicably been hired to provide live jingles for a primetime TV show sometime in the recent past that never quite was . . .We hear the trombone run the gamut from furious chatter to muffled screams, sorrowful sighs into searing growls and back. “Virtuosic” doesn’t really cover it.”  Point of Departure

"Not a lot causes this writer to laugh out loud, but this album did, repeatedly . . . images of an anarchic opera, samples from TV and film adding to this rich and borderline frantic mêlé . . . cutting-edge neo-classical with more than a touch of downtown New York-style jazz improvisation and, what’s more, it’s tremendous fun"
LondonJazzNews

“Alex is a bloody phenomenal composer and visionary” Prxludes.net

“Uniquely and audaciously manic. Call an ambulance, just in case.
This is one of the naughtiest CDs to come my way in some time…shares Zappa's creativity, and his talent for pushing his music as far as it can go without teetering it into anarchy…Ideas are thrown against the wall with machine gun rapidity, and they go splat all over the listener, no matter how adept he or she is ducking…It’s like bring tied down and tickled ruthlessly by a gang of nerds...not that I would know.” Amazon. 5 stars


“What none of the litriture says is that his music is completely bonkers. The tittle track is 15 minutes long  & I loved the whole thing, it grabs your attention all the way through…I highly recommend this album it is great fun” Peter Slavid on European Modern Jazz

“Superstar” British trombone society

“Totally missed this release until Seth Colter Walls covered it in the New York Times. In a word: wow. Alex Paxton combines elements of musique concrete, collective free-form jazz improv, and loads of humor and satire. Not much can prepare one for this music. The only comparison I might make is to Lumpy Gravy-era Frank Zappa. For those looking to stretch their ears, consider this atomic yoga. Turn it up.” Amazon - Top Review U.S.A


"The title Music for Bosch People implies a horrific set, but composer and trombonist Alex Paxton has subtlety in mind as well.  The album mingles styles and timbres in a manner that reflects the painter’s turbulent art." A Closer Listen


REVIEWS in Full

The Wire Magazine


“Paxton, Like Hieronymous Bosch, is one of those rare artists who manage to make a virtue of excess.
The turbulent and joyful spirit of his music bubbles up irrepressibly in his trombone playing, and courses torrentially though his flamboyantly unpredictable compositions. Paxton revels in unlikely ingredients and improbably combinations, wilfully contrived clashes and oblique correspondences. Listening to his restless, multidirectional, poly stylistic music, with its starling simultaneities, fleeting allusions, wild flourishes and bewildering lack of fixed centres, is exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure. Clinging on to a clear sense of direction and well-defined form is simply not practicable. Yet these anarchically effusive pieces do hold together together. Surfing the crest of their exuberance is an extraordinary experience.”

New York Times

extended review

Positionen

extended review

SoundmakingPodcast

interview with Alex Paxton


Prxludes

interview with Alex Paxton

The Trombonist  Magazine

interview with Alex Paxton

Resonance FM

feature with Alex Paxton

The Sampler





Point of Departure

extended review
Alex Paxton
Music for Bosch People
Birmingham Record Company BRC011 


Alex Paxton’s first album is serious music saturated with the silly. This is high art stuffed full of the kind of pop culture that is so quotidian you don’t even notice it’s there unless someone like Paxton comes along and blows it out of proportion, warps it almost beyond recognition through the tubes of his elastic-ecstatic-spasmodic trombone. When I spoke to him, Paxton told me he wants to put his horn in “perpetual motion” – no mean feat on an instrument with neither valves nor keys, rendering circular breathing particularly complicated. Yet for all this grueling technical striving – stimulating in-and-of-itself – Paxton’s playing also leans on the trombone’s human (animal!) qualities: humor and pathos born of the transmutation of the voice. In the opening passages of the album’s title track – a sort of stand-alone suite – we hear the trombone run the gamut from furious chatter to muffled screams, sorrowful sighs into searing growls and back. “Virtuosic” doesn’t really cover it.

The album is titled Music for Bosch People. Personally, the notable washing machine manufacturer was what first came to mind (the music certainly sounds like it’s been spun around at high velocity for several hours). Apparently, my intuition was not entirely wrong: Paxton explains in an interview that he has two Bosch washing machines in his house. The main point of reference is, however, Hieronymus Bosch, the 15th-16th century Dutch painter whose fantastical renderings of everyday life act as loose inspiration and analogue for the music. But that’s not all. Music for Bosch People is also a play on “music for posh people,” simultaneously sending up classical music and the commercial uses it’s put to. The music itself is as multi-layered as the title’s meaning, so dense with references it sounds like it’s about to burst. Paxton calls this his “Where’s Wally aesthetic.” Though that’s not exactly what he meant when he said it to me (he was, specifically, responding to a question about the moment in the middle of “Prayer in the Darkness” where his falsetto trombone quotes Ornette Coleman’s “Dancing In Your Head”) this is what I mean when I say that pop culture saturates his sound. Another way to put it could be: operatic Game Boy music played by a virtuosic motley crew that’s inexplicably been hired to provide live jingles for a primetime TV show sometime in the recent past that never quite was. This sound is produced by layers and layers of recording piled high like a teetering Tower of Babel (Pieter Breugel, who painted three versions of the aforementioned biblical structure, is another of Paxton’s favorites). In more pedestrian terms, the music is made by shapeshifting combinations of trombone, voices, electric guitars, saxophones, piccolo, violin, viola and electronics. The resulting edifice has a back-to-the-future quality to it: anachronistic music that feels more futuristic than the present.

Music for Bosch People is unabashedly weird. But despite its silliness – at times teetering on the edge of irony, or even tipping right over into it – the album remains touching. Just listen to “Prayer with Night Pictures” and try not to squirm. What is all that celestial squealing? And why does it make me want to laugh and cry at the same time? The paintings of Hieronymus Bosch certainly contain clues, described variously as “wondrous,” “gruesome,” “fantastica,” “horrific,” and so on. But the music itself is both dense and expansive enough to yield its own answers – most likely a different one on each listening. Here too the parallel with a Bosch painting is apt: each time you go back to it you’re liable to discover something different, another detail lurking in plain sight. Or are we talking about Where’s Wally again? It doesn’t really matter. The point is this is music to re-listen to and get lost in.
–Gabriel Bristow. Moment’s Notics Point of Departure.

Positionen


Complexity is supposed to be dead – or at least, to borrow Richard Taruskin’s description, “terminal”. It certainly seems like it: the domain of old men banging on about “catarhythmic timeline modifyers” and “interruptive polyphony”. Indeed, complexity is so dead that multiple generations of composers across the aesthetic spectrum have reacted to the decline of postwar Modernism by making music that asks the question: “what if I wrote music that actually sounded nice?” In Britain at least this has resulted in a lot of new composition which is easy going and consonant, friendly even. All well and good, but it can sometimes feel like eating a diet exclusively comprised of cake. Sometimes you want to eat cake but sometimes you want to eat a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

Step forward Alex Paxton, incipient savior of difficult listening, with his album Music for Bosch People. The title track is a high-octane, 15-minute odyssey of obsessively repeating riffs, avant jazz harmonies, extended technique brass solos, prog rock organ, stuttering drums… I could go on. The patron saint of this kind of high intensity poly stylism is John Zorn, and the influence of his 1990 album Naked City hovers over Paxton’s album. The tracks on Naked City are intense bullets of musical information, none over 5 minutes, almost half under 60 seconds. Paxton takes this level of intensity and builds larger forms using jarring layers that animate the entire audible field and jostle with each other, competing for the foreground of the texture. A precedent for this is Harrison Birtwistle’s large-scale work Secret Theatre from 1984 where an elliptical cantus firmus holds together constantly shifting textures; for Paxton, neurotic riffs serve the same function. Music for Bosch People is a brutally airless kaleidoscope of twentieth-century musical trash: 1980s video game sounds, 1990s tv themes, 1950s big band schmaltz – on multiple listens the piece is almost nostalgic, Paxton eschewing the clipped digital racket of the twenty-first century.

“Londonglum” is a trombone solo performed with formidable virtuosity by Paxton himself. It seems to be a meditation on virtuosity: Paxton’s own take on Charlie Parker-style bebop or Paganini. The piece sounds like he’s wrestling his trombone, which has come to life and is forcing him play Flight of the Bumblebee. Amid manic runs of notes Paxton shouts, groans and yelps in protest. The piece reminds me of the 1947 American radio play for children, Sparky’s Magic Piano. A musical fable, Sparky’s piano comes alive and allows him play the most virtuosic piano repertoire without having to practice, only to humiliatingly abandon him on stage at Carnegie Hall. Paxton seems wary of his talent, hostile to it, suspicious of its gifts. His virtuosity is without fluency: his trombone playing is immensely effortful, the sound is strangled and you can hear his ragged breathing throughout the recording.

The album ends with five pieces with titles including the word ‘Prayer’, and while they are not exactly prayerful in the traditional sense they have a comparatively contemplative and nocturnal quality. In Paxton’s music, the surprise generated by snatched moments of stasis, repetition or arrival demonstrates how furiously unstable the rest of it is. “Prayer with Night Pictures” has a sultry expressiveness combined with Bach-like arpeggiation; “Prayer in the Darkness” combines Baroque trills and flourishes with jazz close harmonisations. There are moments of softness here but they are never straightforward: always accompanied by layers of frenetic electronic fiddling or trombone yowling.

Bosch’s paintings are a good visual analogy for Paxton’s music: mountains of crisp detail that are legible when taken singly but accumulate into a surreal and overwhelming whole. Paxton’s music and playing seems possessed by an inorganic energy: it doesn’t ebb and flow, it doesn’t get tired. It churns away with the unstoppable but varied mechanical precision of a washing machine, maybe a Bosch. - Edward Henderson


This position is published in German translation in Positionen issue #128, August 2021.


LondonJazzNews


Not a lot causes this writer to laugh out loud, but this album did, repeatedly. For improvising trombonist, prolific composer and band-leader Alex Paxton’s new electro-acoustic album Music For Bosch People is a witty and exhilarating kaleidoscope of musical ideas, with a stew of references ranging from musique concrète to Frank Zappa. Still only in his early 30s, Paxton has already composed for orchestra, opera, film, theatre and, perhaps most impressively of all, for children.

For Music For Bosch People he engages a cast of similarly spirited fellow improvisor-musicians, in variable configurations across the seven tracks; check out the impressive list of names at the end of this review.

The first, title track is the longest at over 15 minutes and is a tour de force. Paxton reportedly left ample space in his score for each musician to improvise, and all of them certainly rise to the challenge. The cavalcade of cheeky brass blurts and squawks, strange vocalisations and hyperactive electronics doesn’t detract from the clearly evident compositional chops and musicianship. The contrasting next track, Londonglum, has Paxton improvising solo on screaming/groaning/farting trombone and voice: a fury-laden outcry.

The remaining five so-called Prayer tracks are if anything even more free, yet more complex, so bear repeated listening. According to the liner notes they “began life as layers of recorded improvisations on a simple little stylophone and a small cheap MIDI synth, which were then written over with notation and orchestrated for a live band of drums, saxophone, guitar and trombone, electronics and tape elements”. They evoke images of an anarchic opera, samples from TV and film adding to this rich and borderline frantic mêlé. Though I’m unaware of Paxton’s influences, many other associations were triggered, Sun Ra Arkestra and Anna Meredith being perhaps the most prominent, whilst in the visual art world and particularly in the nightmarish Prayer In The Darkness, Hieronymus Bosch of course.

This album is cutting-edge neo-classical with more than a touch of downtown New York-style jazz improvisation and, what’s more, it’s tremendous fun, so it comes as no surprise to hear that Paxton has recently received the compliment of a commission from US multi-instrumentalist John Zorn.

Alex Paxton – Music For Bosch People
(Birmingham Record Company BRC011. Album review by Fiona Mactaggart)


Amazon


Uniquely and audaciously manic. Call an ambulance, just in case.This is one of the naughtiest CDs to come my way in some time, and I am glad of it. Alex Paxton (b. 1990) is a British composer and improvising jazz trombonist. He is, perhaps, to the trombone with Frank Zappa was to the electric guitar, and at first listen, he shares at least some of Zappa's creativity, and his talent for pushing his music as far as it can go without teetering it into anarchy. The other composer whom I am reminded of is Gene Pritsker.

But let's let Paxton speak for himself:
"Like minimal but loads more notes like video-games but with more song like jazz but much more gay like old gay music but more current like yummy sweet but more stick like paint but more scratch like tapestry but filthily like prayer but more loud like loud groove and more rude like fingers and faces too but somehow more smelly like smelly things cooking with more chew and change like louder prayers that groove with like stinking-hot-pink in poo-brown but even more desperate-like than that like drums and Dream Musics…"

Granted, one might call that childish and self-serving, but Paxton and his colleagues obviously are having tons of fun on this CD, and it's contagious. Some of the seven selections start relatively calmly ("Prayer in the Darkness" is almost pastoral at the outset), but all of them turn hypermanic in short order. Ideas are thrown against the wall with machine gun rapidity, and they go splat all over the listener, no matter how adept he or she is ducking. Paxton is inspired, it seems, not just by video game music, but also by video games (older ones, perhaps) themselves. In the middle of the musicians' impressive technical accomplishments, there runs a low-tech charm that I find appealing. At times the music resembles nothing less than the screaming of a band of frenzied chimpanzees (or Donkey Kong?) and a ruthless attack on a city skyline executed by the Super Mario Bros. If I'm speaking Greek, ask your (grand)kids. (Incidentally, Paxton has worked extensively with young people. His opera "Noggin and the Whale" involves “massed forces including 500 young instrumentalists and singers.”)

Some readers might have grown up with Charlie Brown television specials, and if they did, they probably remember the wordless “wah-wah” voice of Charlie Brown's teacher, Miss Othmar. That sound was created by trombonist Dean Hubbard. Miss Othmar's descendants are part of Alex Paxton's world too, and their inarticulate nagging becomes another component of his eclectic sound-mix. And oh yes, can we talk? One really can pick out the voice of Joan Rivers in the fourth track.

This CD is relentless, and it is fortunate that it is relatively short. I don't know that I could take much more, but that's not to say that I did not enjoy every second of it. It's like bring tied down and tickled ruthlessly by a gang of nerds...not that I would know.

AMAZON top USA review

Utterly exhilirating. Totally missed this release until Seth Colter Walls covered it in the New York Times. In a word: wow. Alex Paxton combines elements of musique concrete, collective free-form jazz improv, and loads of humor and satire. Not much can prepare one for this music. The only comparison I might make is to Lumpy Gravy-era Frank Zappa.

For those looking to stretch their ears, consider this atomic yoga. Turn it up.












Alex Paxton trombones, leader
Christine Buras soprano
Harriet Burns soprano
Mike De Souza electric guitar
Alyson Frazier piccolo
Matthew Herd saxophone
David Ingamells drum kit
Felix Josza electric guitar
Rob Luft electric guitar
Emma Purslow violin & viola
David Zucchi saxophone