In the course of an astonishing long life, Leo Ornstein (1893 - 2002) had many shifts of fortune. Recognized as a child prodigy on the piano, Ornstein's family fled the Russian pogroms and moved to New York City in 1906. Ornstein studied piano and composition and graduated from what would become the Juilliard School of Music. From 1915 through the mid 1920's, Ornstein was famous as a concert pianist and notorious as a composer of highly dissonant, futurist works of avant-garde music. Coming from a poor Russian Jewish family, Ornstein married a wealthy heiress, Pauline Mallet-Provost. In the 1920s, Ornstein abruptly retired from the concert stage and founded a music school in Philadelphia.
Since he released the completely solo For Alto in 1968, the accepted image of Anthony Braxton has been that he is more a theoretician and art music composer than a jazz musician. Therefore, it might seem strange that Mosaic Records is giving his Complete Arista Recordings one of their fabled box set treatments. But Braxton is both – and much more. This set – as well as the original Arista recordings – were produced by Michael Cuscuna, Mosaic/Blue Note label head. The sheer scope of these recordings is staggering. What we get in this amazingly detailed collection is the weightiest argument yet for Braxton's range and depth of field as a musical thinker and his role as a pillar of modern jazz.