Nathaniel Braddock, Quadrille & Collapse


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About

Musician and composer Nathaniel Braddock tours internationally and performs an array of different musical styles in venues as disparate as underground arts spaces and Lincoln Center.  Based for years in Chicago, Braddock relocated to Sydney, Australia, in 2014, and to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2016.

Nathaniel leads the acclaimed Central African soukous ...

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Contact

Publisist
Lex Lindsey
812-339-1195 x 203

Current News

  • 03/08/201704/29/2017
  • Cambridge, MA

Nathaniel Braddock & Balla Kouyate at The Lily Pad

Disregarding the Proper: Guiatarist Nathaniel Braddock's Acoustic Record Shakes Up Three Continents’ Musical Idioms on Quadrille & Collapse

Solitude re-created Nathaniel Braddock’s music. Braddock had spent years playing dance floor-packing West African music as part of the Occidental Brothers Dance Band Int’l. At the same time, he taught fingerstyle genres to guitar players at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, diving deep into the...

Press

  • Boston Globe, Event preview, 04/21/2017, Nathaniel Braddock at The Lily Pad, April 29 Text
  • Dusted Magazine, Album review, 04/07/2017, Nathaniel Braddock — Quadrille & Collapse (Invertebrata) Text
  • Brightest Young Things, Listing, 04/06/2017, Chicago Best Weekend Bets - Sarah Louise and Nathaniel Braddock at Constellation Text
  • Chicago Reader, Event preview, 04/04/2017, Occidental Brothers Founder Nathaniel Braddock Explores Fingerstyle Guitar on His Lovely New Solo Album Text
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News

04/29/2017, Cambridge, MA, The Lily Pad
03/08/201704/29/2017, Nathaniel Braddock & Balla Kouyate at The Lily Pad
Event
04/29/2017
Event
04/29/2017
Ticket Phone
617-955-7729
Ticket Price(s)
$10.00 Cover
Venue Zip
02139
Venue City, State
Cambridge, MA
Venue St. Address
1353 Cambridge St
Venue
The Lily Pad
Doors Open
5:00 PM
Solitude re-created Nathaniel Braddock’s music. Braddock had spent years playing dance floor-packing West African music as part of the Occidental Brothers Dance Band Int’l. MORE» More»

Disregarding the Proper: Guiatarist Nathaniel Braddock's Acoustic Record Shakes Up Three Continents’ Musical Idioms on Quadrille & Collapse

Solitude re-created Nathaniel Braddock’s music. Braddock had spent years playing dance floor-packing West African music as part of the Occidental Brothers Dance Band Int’l. At the same time, he taught fingerstyle genres to guitar players at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, diving deep into the work of players like John Fahey, Ali Farka Toure, Bert Jansch, and Boubacar Traore.

Then he wound up in Australia, caring for his infant son. As he played solo gigs, he began braiding his complex, divergent influences together in new ways, returning to more exploratory approaches. The resulting album of solo guitar instrumentals Quadrille & Collapse (release: April 7, 2017), recorded in Melbourne, balances the avant and the lyrical, the traditional and the modern, the groove and the adventurous meter.

The album deconstructs the age-old underpinnings of Americana, British folk, and African string music, building an organic whole with a subtle, searing edge: a rhythmic twist here, a challenging chord sequence there. It’s the music 20th-century classical mavericks might have made, if they tackled fingerpicking, palm wine music, and American parlor tunes.

“I came to a reckoning point. I was spending so much time transcribing and learning to play other musicians’ tunes, that I really wanted to write my own music again,” Braddock recounts. “I was spending time alone with our newborn son--I wasn’t in rehearsal with my 6-piece African dance band. I started dealing emotionally with how my playing had changed after years of teaching folk music, in both positive and negative ways. But I was also then thinking analytically about my influences, and how to create something beautiful that honored these new influences, yet got me back into exploratory, experimental material.”

To do this, Braddock unites early American open tunings and post-bop harmonies, palmwine rhythms and classical composition techniques. He finds new voicings and robust arrangements that make full use of the instrument. “I’m trying to play within expected traditional music idioms, but also make them unsettling and different,” notes Braddock. “Not to disrespect the tradition, but to disregard what is proper or improper.”

Braddock won his reputation as an innovative, skilled player in the Chicago indie rock (Ancientgreeks, the Zincs) and improvised music scenes (Butcher Shop Quartet), yet he had a long-standing fascination with African music that began in his teens. Not content to merely listen or dabble, he spent years studying, playing, and traveling to deepen his understanding of West African popular music, collaborating with musicians from Mali, Ghana, Congo, and Zambia.

He eventually taught an African guitar class at the Old Town School, and his students were so into it, they insisted he needed to start a band. He did, the Occidental Brothers. Fronted by a respected Ghanaian vocalist, Kofi Cromwell, the group took the world and eclectic scene by storm, playing Pitchfork and numerous major jazz festivals.

Ghanaian and Northern Malian elements persist in Braddock’s compositions. “Kodjo Odo Fowaa” takes palmwine rhythms and sikyi harmonies, but then departs from them harmonically, in an intimate tribute to his son. “Tiger Bucket” draws firmly on folk, but also takes cues from Hamza el Din, an early influence on Braddock. “The Desert Within” posits what John Fahey might have played after a long sojourn in the Sahara.

At the same time Braddock was teaching and playing African music intensively, he developed classes on fingerpicking styles. He used the work of British Folk Revival players like Jansch and Nick Drake, as well as early American styles and techniques, as models. He became fluent in this guitar dialect, though Braddock was slightly ambivalent about the rhythmic impact of this style, a notion he explored in “Regression to the Mean.”

“After teaching this style of playing, it changed the rhythm of how I played,” Braddock reflects. “I was at this moment, when I said, ‘God, what happened to me?’ Truthfully, I’ve become a better player, but my voice had moved toward the middle of the road. I embraced that rhythm, that right hand pattern, but played blazingly fast and changed the harmony.”

In counterpoint to the folk influence, Braddock weaves contemporary classical ideas and sounds into his compositions. “New Prague, Spring” hints at Copeland’s anthemic, modern tonalities. “Silvering Ghosts” interlocking rhythmic patterns suggest the building, shifting cycles of minimalists like Steve Reich.

Whether lyrical or more challenging, Braddock’s playing has a sparkling crispness, an evocative precision. Braddock sees technique and emotion as entwined, and compositional concepts, memory, and personal experience find equal footing in his pieces. “When people write music, there’s a lot of autobiography. They don’t pull it out of the air. It comes from their personal history, from their context,” Braddock reflects. “Context and story are part of what makes things like African music so amazing. The music theory is also a part of that cultural context.”

Braddock is building context for the project, creating a video and commissioning remixes of the tracks, to bring out other elements and sides of the pieces. Yet the tracks on Quadrille & Collapse speak boldly for themselves, in the unique dialect Braddock has developed. “As a more mature musician, I have a bit more perspective than just letting things burble out,” he muses. “That’s part of what happens when you develop a personal vocabulary. It’s influenced by all the music in your practice, that you play regularly.”

 

Event
04/29/2017

04/08/2017, Chicago, IL, Constellation, 8:30 PM
03/08/201704/08/2017, Sarah Louise, Nathaniel Braddock Record Release Show for "Quadrille & Collapse"
Event
04/08/2017
Event
04/08/2017
Event Notes
18 & Over
Ticket Price(s)
$10.00
Venue Zip
60618
Venue City, State
Chicago, IL
Venue St. Address
3111 N Western Ave
Venue
Constellation
Concert Start Time
8:30 PM
Solitude re-created Nathaniel Braddock’s music. Braddock had spent years playing dance floor-packing West African music as part of the Occidental Brothers Dance Band Int’l. MORE» More»

Disregarding the Proper: Guitarist Nathaniel Braddock's Acoustic Record Shakes Up Three Continents’ Musical Idioms on Quadrille & Collapse

Solitude re-created Nathaniel Braddock’s music. Braddock had spent years playing dance floor-packing West African music as part of the Occidental Brothers Dance Band Int’l. At the same time, he taught fingerstyle genres to guitar players at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, diving deep into the work of players like John Fahey, Ali Farka Toure, Bert Jansch, and Boubacar Traore.

Then he wound up in Australia, caring for his infant son. As he played solo gigs, he began braiding his complex, divergent influences together in new ways, returning to more exploratory approaches. The resulting album of solo guitar instrumentals Quadrille & Collapse (release: April 7, 2017), recorded in Melbourne, balances the avant and the lyrical, the traditional and the modern, the groove and the adventurous meter.

The album deconstructs the age-old underpinnings of Americana, British folk, and African string music, building an organic whole with a subtle, searing edge: a rhythmic twist here, a challenging chord sequence there. It’s the music 20th-century classical mavericks might have made, if they tackled fingerpicking, palm wine music, and American parlor tunes.

“I came to a reckoning point. I was spending so much time transcribing and learning to play other musicians’ tunes, that I really wanted to write my own music again,” Braddock recounts. “I was spending time alone with our newborn son--I wasn’t in rehearsal with my 6-piece African dance band. I started dealing emotionally with how my playing had changed after years of teaching folk music, in both positive and negative ways. But I was also then thinking analytically about my influences, and how to create something beautiful that honored these new influences, yet got me back into exploratory, experimental material.”

To do this, Braddock unites early American open tunings and post-bop harmonies, palmwine rhythms and classical composition techniques. He finds new voicings and robust arrangements that make full use of the instrument. “I’m trying to play within expected traditional music idioms, but also make them unsettling and different,” notes Braddock. “Not to disrespect the tradition, but to disregard what is proper or improper.”

Braddock won his reputation as an innovative, skilled player in the Chicago indie rock (Ancientgreeks, the Zincs) and improvised music scenes (Butcher Shop Quartet), yet he had a long-standing fascination with African music that began in his teens. Not content to merely listen or dabble, he spent years studying, playing, and traveling to deepen his understanding of West African popular music, collaborating with musicians from Mali, Ghana, Congo, and Zambia.

He eventually taught an African guitar class at the Old Town School, and his students were so into it, they insisted he needed to start a band. He did, the Occidental Brothers. Fronted by a respected Ghanaian vocalist, Kofi Cromwell, the group took the world and eclectic scene by storm, playing Pitchfork and numerous major jazz festivals.

Ghanaian and Northern Malian elements persist in Braddock’s compositions. “Kodjo Odo Fowaa” takes palmwine rhythms and sikyi harmonies, but then departs from them harmonically, in an intimate tribute to his son. “Tiger Bucket” draws firmly on folk, but also takes cues from Hamza el Din, an early influence on Braddock. “The Desert Within” posits what John Fahey might have played after a long sojourn in the Sahara.

At the same time Braddock was teaching and playing African music intensively, he developed classes on fingerpicking styles. He used the work of British Folk Revival players like Jansch and Nick Drake, as well as early American styles and techniques, as models. He became fluent in this guitar dialect, though Braddock was slightly ambivalent about the rhythmic impact of this style, a notion he explored in “Regression to the Mean.”

“After teaching this style of playing, it changed the rhythm of how I played,” Braddock reflects. “I was at this moment, when I said, ‘God, what happened to me?’ Truthfully, I’ve become a better player, but my voice had moved toward the middle of the road. I embraced that rhythm, that right hand pattern, but played blazingly fast and changed the harmony.”

In counterpoint to the folk influence, Braddock weaves contemporary classical ideas and sounds into his compositions. “New Prague, Spring” hints at Copeland’s anthemic, modern tonalities. “Silvering Ghosts” interlocking rhythmic patterns suggest the building, shifting cycles of minimalists like Steve Reich.

Whether lyrical or more challenging, Braddock’s playing has a sparkling crispness, an evocative precision. Braddock sees technique and emotion as entwined, and compositional concepts, memory, and personal experience find equal footing in his pieces. “When people write music, there’s a lot of autobiography. They don’t pull it out of the air. It comes from their personal history, from their context,” Braddock reflects. “Context and story are part of what makes things like African music so amazing. The music theory is also a part of that cultural context.”

Braddock is building context for the project, creating a video and commissioning remixes of the tracks, to bring out other elements and sides of the pieces. Yet the tracks on Quadrille & Collapse speak boldly for themselves, in the unique dialect Braddock has developed. “As a more mature musician, I have a bit more perspective than just letting things burble out,” he muses. “That’s part of what happens when you develop a personal vocabulary. It’s influenced by all the music in your practice, that you play regularly.”

Event
04/08/2017

04/07/2017, Album Release, "Quadrille & Collapse", Invertebrata Records
03/07/201704/07/2017, Disregarding the Proper: Guitarist Nathaniel Braddock's Acoustic Record Shakes Up Three Continents’ Musical Idioms on Quadrille & Collapse
Release
04/07/2017
Release
04/07/2017
Release Format
Album
Record Label
Invertebrata Records
Release Title
Quadrille & Collapse
The resulting album of solo guitar instrumentals, Quadrille & Collapse (release: April 7, 2017), recorded in Melbourne, balances the avant and the lyrical, the traditional and the modern, the groove and the adventurous meter. MORE» More»

Solitude re-created Nathaniel Braddock’s music. Braddock had spent years playing dance floor-packing West African music as part of the Occidental Brothers Dance Band Int’l. At the same time, he taught fingerstyle genres to guitar players at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, diving deep into the work of players like John Fahey, Ali Farka Toure, Bert Jansch, and Boubacar Traore.

Then he wound up in Australia, caring for his infant son. As he played solo gigs, he began braiding his complex, divergent influences together in new ways, returning to more exploratory approaches. The resulting album of solo guitar instrumentals, Quadrille & Collapse (release: April 7, 2017), recorded in Melbourne, balances the avant and the lyrical, the traditional and the modern, the groove and the adventurous meter.

The album deconstructs the age-old underpinnings of Americana, British folk, and African string music, building an organic whole with a subtle, searing edge: a rhythmic twist here, a challenging chord sequence there. It’s the music 20th-century classical mavericks might have made, if they tackled fingerpicking, palm wine music, and American parlor tunes.

“I came to a reckoning point. I was spending so much time transcribing and learning to play other musicians’ tunes, that I really wanted to write my own music again,” Braddock recounts. “I was spending time alone with our newborn son--I wasn’t in rehearsal with my 6-piece African dance band. I started dealing emotionally with how my playing had changed after years of teaching folk music, in both positive and negative ways. But I was also then thinking analytically about my influences, and how to create something beautiful that honored these new influences, yet got me back into exploratory, experimental material.”

To do this, Braddock unites early American open tunings and post-bop harmonies, palmwine rhythms and classical composition techniques. He finds new voicings and robust arrangements that make full use of the instrument. “I’m trying to play within expected traditional music idioms, but also make them unsettling and different,” notes Braddock. “Not to disrespect the tradition, but to disregard what is proper or improper.”

Braddock won his reputation as an innovative, skilled player in the Chicago indie rock (Ancientgreeks, the Zincs) and improvised music scenes (Butcher Shop Quartet), yet he had a long-standing fascination with African music that began in his teens. Not content to merely listen or dabble, he spent years studying, playing, and traveling to deepen his understanding of West African popular music, collaborating with musicians from Mali, Ghana, Congo, and Zambia.

He eventually taught an African guitar class at the Old Town School, and his students were so into it, they insisted he needed to start a band. He did, the Occidental Brothers. Fronted by a respected Ghanaian vocalist, Kofi Cromwell, the group took the world and eclectic scene by storm, playing Pitchfork and numerous major jazz festivals.

Ghanaian and Northern Malian elements persist in Braddock’s compositions. “Kodjo Odo Fowaa” takes palmwine rhythms and sikyi harmonies, but then departs from them harmonically, in an intimate tribute to his son. “Tiger Bucket” draws firmly on folk, but also takes cues from Hamza el Din, an early influence on Braddock. “The Desert Within” posits what John Fahey might have played after a long sojourn in the Sahara.

At the same time Braddock was teaching and playing African music intensively, he developed classes on fingerpicking styles. He used the work of British Folk Revival players like Jansch and Nick Drake, as well as early American styles and techniques, as models. He became fluent in this guitar dialect, though Braddock was slightly ambivalent about the rhythmic impact of this style, a notion he explored in “Regression to the Mean.”

“After teaching this style of playing, it changed the rhythm of how I played,” Braddock reflects. “I was at this moment, when I said, ‘God, what happened to me?’ Truthfully, I’ve become a better player, but my voice had moved toward the middle of the road. I embraced that rhythm, that right hand pattern, but played blazingly fast and changed the harmony.”

In counterpoint to the folk influence, Braddock weaves contemporary classical ideas and sounds into his compositions. “New Prague, Spring” hints at Copeland’s anthemic, modern tonalities. “Silvering Ghosts” interlocking rhythmic patterns suggest the building, shifting cycles of minimalists like Steve Reich.

Whether lyrical or more challenging, Braddock’s playing has a sparkling crispness, an evocative precision. Braddock sees technique and emotion as entwined, and compositional concepts, memory, and personal experience find equal footing in his pieces. “When people write music, there’s a lot of autobiography. They don’t pull it out of the air. It comes from their personal history, from their context,” Braddock reflects. “Context and story are part of what makes things like African music so amazing. The music theory is also a part of that cultural context.”

Braddock is building context for the project, creating a video and commissioning remixes of the tracks, to bring out other elements and sides of the pieces. Yet the tracks on Quadrille & Collapse speak boldly for themselves, in the unique dialect Braddock has developed. “As a more mature musician, I have a bit more perspective than just letting things burble out,” he muses. “That’s part of what happens when you develop a personal vocabulary. It’s influenced by all the music in your practice, that you play regularly.”

 
Release
04/07/2017

04/07/2017, Madison, WI, Arts & Literature Laboratory, 8:00 PM
03/08/201704/07/2017, Guitarists Sarah Louise and Nathaniel Braddock share the bill on Friday, April 7th
Event
04/07/2017
Event
04/07/2017
Ticket URL
http://artlitlab.org/events/sarah-louise-nathaniel-braddock
Ticket Price(s)
$10
Venue Zip
53704
Venue City, State
Madison, WI
Venue St. Address
2021 Winnebago Street
Venue
Arts & Literature Laboratory
Concert Start Time
8:00 PM
Doors Open
7:30 PM
Solitude re-created Nathaniel Braddock’s music. Braddock had spent years playing dance floor-packing West African music as part of the Occidental Brothers Dance Band Int’l. MORE» More»

Disregarding the Proper: Guitarist Nathaniel Braddock's Acoustic Record Shakes Up Three Continents’ Musical Idioms on Quadrille & Collapse

Solitude re-created Nathaniel Braddock’s music. Braddock had spent years playing dance floor-packing West African music as part of the Occidental Brothers Dance Band Int’l. At the same time, he taught fingerstyle genres to guitar players at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, diving deep into the work of players like John Fahey, Ali Farka Toure, Bert Jansch, and Boubacar Traore.

Then he wound up in Australia, caring for his infant son. As he played solo gigs, he began braiding his complex, divergent influences together in new ways, returning to more exploratory approaches. The resulting album of solo guitar instrumentals Quadrille & Collapse (release: April 7, 2017), recorded in Melbourne, balances the avant and the lyrical, the traditional and the modern, the groove and the adventurous meter.

The album deconstructs the age-old underpinnings of Americana, British folk, and African string music, building an organic whole with a subtle, searing edge: a rhythmic twist here, a challenging chord sequence there. It’s the music 20th-century classical mavericks might have made, if they tackled fingerpicking, palm wine music, and American parlor tunes.

“I came to a reckoning point. I was spending so much time transcribing and learning to play other musicians’ tunes, that I really wanted to write my own music again,” Braddock recounts. “I was spending time alone with our newborn son--I wasn’t in rehearsal with my 6-piece African dance band. I started dealing emotionally with how my playing had changed after years of teaching folk music, in both positive and negative ways. But I was also then thinking analytically about my influences, and how to create something beautiful that honored these new influences, yet got me back into exploratory, experimental material.”

To do this, Braddock unites early American open tunings and post-bop harmonies, palmwine rhythms and classical composition techniques. He finds new voicings and robust arrangements that make full use of the instrument. “I’m trying to play within expected traditional music idioms, but also make them unsettling and different,” notes Braddock. “Not to disrespect the tradition, but to disregard what is proper or improper.”

Braddock won his reputation as an innovative, skilled player in the Chicago indie rock (Ancientgreeks, the Zincs) and improvised music scenes (Butcher Shop Quartet), yet he had a long-standing fascination with African music that began in his teens. Not content to merely listen or dabble, he spent years studying, playing, and traveling to deepen his understanding of West African popular music, collaborating with musicians from Mali, Ghana, Congo, and Zambia.

He eventually taught an African guitar class at the Old Town School, and his students were so into it, they insisted he needed to start a band. He did, the Occidental Brothers. Fronted by a respected Ghanaian vocalist, Kofi Cromwell, the group took the world and eclectic scene by storm, playing Pitchfork and numerous major jazz festivals.

Ghanaian and Northern Malian elements persist in Braddock’s compositions. “Kodjo Odo Fowaa” takes palmwine rhythms and sikyi harmonies, but then departs from them harmonically, in an intimate tribute to his son. “Tiger Bucket” draws firmly on folk, but also takes cues from Hamza el Din, an early influence on Braddock. “The Desert Within” posits what John Fahey might have played after a long sojourn in the Sahara.

At the same time Braddock was teaching and playing African music intensively, he developed classes on fingerpicking styles. He used the work of British Folk Revival players like Jansch and Nick Drake, as well as early American styles and techniques, as models. He became fluent in this guitar dialect, though Braddock was slightly ambivalent about the rhythmic impact of this style, a notion he explored in “Regression to the Mean.”

“After teaching this style of playing, it changed the rhythm of how I played,” Braddock reflects. “I was at this moment, when I said, ‘God, what happened to me?’ Truthfully, I’ve become a better player, but my voice had moved toward the middle of the road. I embraced that rhythm, that right hand pattern, but played blazingly fast and changed the harmony.”

In counterpoint to the folk influence, Braddock weaves contemporary classical ideas and sounds into his compositions. “New Prague, Spring” hints at Copeland’s anthemic, modern tonalities. “Silvering Ghosts” interlocking rhythmic patterns suggest the building, shifting cycles of minimalists like Steve Reich.

Whether lyrical or more challenging, Braddock’s playing has a sparkling crispness, an evocative precision. Braddock sees technique and emotion as entwined, and compositional concepts, memory, and personal experience find equal footing in his pieces. “When people write music, there’s a lot of autobiography. They don’t pull it out of the air. It comes from their personal history, from their context,” Braddock reflects. “Context and story are part of what makes things like African music so amazing. The music theory is also a part of that cultural context.”

Braddock is building context for the project, creating a video and commissioning remixes of the tracks, to bring out other elements and sides of the pieces. Yet the tracks on Quadrille & Collapse speak boldly for themselves, in the unique dialect Braddock has developed. “As a more mature musician, I have a bit more perspective than just letting things burble out,” he muses. “That’s part of what happens when you develop a personal vocabulary. It’s influenced by all the music in your practice, that you play regularly.”

Event
04/07/2017

03/17/2017, Washington, DC, Georgetown University: McNeir Auditorium , 1:15 PM
03/08/201703/17/2017, Nathaniel Braddock at Georgetown University, Solo guitar concert and Masterclass
Event
03/17/2017
Event
03/17/2017
Ticket URL
https://guevents.georgetown.edu/event/friday_music_series_nathaniel_braddock_guitar
Ticket Price(s)
Free Open to Public
Venue Zip
20057
Venue City, State
Washington D.C.
Venue St. Address
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Venue
Georgetown University: McNeir Auditorium
Concert Start Time
1:15 PM
Disregarding the Proper: Guitarist Nathaniel Braddock's Acoustic Record Shakes Up Three Continents’ Musical Idioms on Quadrille & Collapse MORE» More»

Disregarding the Proper: Guitarist Nathaniel Braddock's Acoustic Record Shakes Up Three Continents’ Musical Idioms on Quadrille & Collapse

Solitude re-created Nathaniel Braddock’s music. Braddock had spent years playing dance floor-packing West African music as part of the Occidental Brothers Dance Band Int’l. At the same time, he taught fingerstyle genres to guitar players at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, diving deep into the work of players like John Fahey, Ali Farka Toure, Bert Jansch, and Boubacar Traore.

Then he wound up in Australia, caring for his infant son. As he played solo gigs, he began braiding his complex, divergent influences together in new ways, returning to more exploratory approaches. The resulting album of solo guitar instrumentals Quadrille & Collapse (release: April 7, 2017), recorded in Melbourne, balances the avant and the lyrical, the traditional and the modern, the groove and the adventurous meter.

The album deconstructs the age-old underpinnings of Americana, British folk, and African string music, building an organic whole with a subtle, searing edge: a rhythmic twist here, a challenging chord sequence there. It’s the music 20th-century classical mavericks might have made, if they tackled fingerpicking, palm wine music, and American parlor tunes.

“I came to a reckoning point. I was spending so much time transcribing and learning to play other musicians’ tunes, that I really wanted to write my own music again,” Braddock recounts. “I was spending time alone with our newborn son--I wasn’t in rehearsal with my 6-piece African dance band. I started dealing emotionally with how my playing had changed after years of teaching folk music, in both positive and negative ways. But I was also then thinking analytically about my influences, and how to create something beautiful that honored these new influences, yet got me back into exploratory, experimental material.”

To do this, Braddock unites early American open tunings and post-bop harmonies, palmwine rhythms and classical composition techniques. He finds new voicings and robust arrangements that make full use of the instrument. “I’m trying to play within expected traditional music idioms, but also make them unsettling and different,” notes Braddock. “Not to disrespect the tradition, but to disregard what is proper or improper.”

Braddock won his reputation as an innovative, skilled player in the Chicago indie rock (Ancientgreeks, the Zincs) and improvised music scenes (Butcher Shop Quartet), yet he had a long-standing fascination with African music that began in his teens. Not content to merely listen or dabble, he spent years studying, playing, and traveling to deepen his understanding of West African popular music, collaborating with musicians from Mali, Ghana, Congo, and Zambia.

He eventually taught an African guitar class at the Old Town School, and his students were so into it, they insisted he needed to start a band. He did, the Occidental Brothers. Fronted by a respected Ghanaian vocalist, Kofi Cromwell, the group took the world and eclectic scene by storm, playing Pitchfork and numerous major jazz festivals.

Ghanaian and Northern Malian elements persist in Braddock’s compositions. “Kodjo Odo Fowaa” takes palmwine rhythms and sikyi harmonies, but then departs from them harmonically, in an intimate tribute to his son. “Tiger Bucket” draws firmly on folk, but also takes cues from Hamza el Din, an early influence on Braddock. “The Desert Within” posits what John Fahey might have played after a long sojourn in the Sahara.

At the same time Braddock was teaching and playing African music intensively, he developed classes on fingerpicking styles. He used the work of British Folk Revival players like Jansch and Nick Drake, as well as early American styles and techniques, as models. He became fluent in this guitar dialect, though Braddock was slightly ambivalent about the rhythmic impact of this style, a notion he explored in “Regression to the Mean.”

“After teaching this style of playing, it changed the rhythm of how I played,” Braddock reflects. “I was at this moment, when I said, ‘God, what happened to me?’ Truthfully, I’ve become a better player, but my voice had moved toward the middle of the road. I embraced that rhythm, that right hand pattern, but played blazingly fast and changed the harmony.”

In counterpoint to the folk influence, Braddock weaves contemporary classical ideas and sounds into his compositions. “New Prague, Spring” hints at Copeland’s anthemic, modern tonalities. “Silvering Ghosts” interlocking rhythmic patterns suggest the building, shifting cycles of minimalists like Steve Reich.

Whether lyrical or more challenging, Braddock’s playing has a sparkling crispness, an evocative precision. Braddock sees technique and emotion as entwined, and compositional concepts, memory, and personal experience find equal footing in his pieces. “When people write music, there’s a lot of autobiography. They don’t pull it out of the air. It comes from their personal history, from their context,” Braddock reflects. “Context and story are part of what makes things like African music so amazing. The music theory is also a part of that cultural context.”

Braddock is building context for the project, creating a video and commissioning remixes of the tracks, to bring out other elements and sides of the pieces. Yet the tracks on Quadrille & Collapse speak boldly for themselves, in the unique dialect Braddock has developed. “As a more mature musician, I have a bit more perspective than just letting things burble out,” he muses. “That’s part of what happens when you develop a personal vocabulary. It’s influenced by all the music in your practice, that you play regularly.”

Event
03/17/2017