The Chicago avant-garde jazz patriarch Muhal Richard Abrams died today at 87. Named a National Endowment of The Arts Jazz Master in 2010, the pianist, composer and bandleader was at the center of Chicago’s free jazz movement, which was formalized in 1965 when he co-founded the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. The Art Ensemble of Chicago became the best-known group that grew out of the AACM. Freedom and unfettered imagination were the hallmarks of Mr. Abrams’ piano improvisation, but he never abandoned his ability to summon the styles and spirits of Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell, avatars of bebop.
Over the years, Abrams led several groups, including the one he called The Experimental Band. When he led it at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2015, it included a number of the leading lights of the free jazz movement. Our excerpt from that concert has Abrams and Amina Claudine Myers, piano; Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill, alto saxophone; LaRoy Wallace McMillan, baritone saxophone; Wadada Leo Smith, trumpet; George Lewis, trombone; Leonard Jones, bass; Thurman Barker, drums and vibraphone; and Reggie Nicholson, drums and marimba.
The Abrams family has said that they will not have a funeral, but will hold memorial services in Chicago and New York. Details are to be announced later.
I was first exposed to Jazz when a couple of dear friends of mine turned me onto it around 1971. I was already into Progressive music, R n' B, Soul, Motown, Latin Rock and other styles that were a great ladder to Jazz
I was first exposed to Jazz when a couple of dear friends of mine turned me onto it around 1971. I was already into Progressive music, R n' B, Soul, Motown, Latin Rock and other styles that were a great ladder to Jazz.
Being a Musician myself, (Lead Guitar/Bass Guitar), I studied at the Dick Grove School of Music with Dick Grove, Jeff Richman and Lee Ritenour. This was around '84-'85. I started playing the Guitar in November 1967. Playing Guitar came quite naturally to me thank goodness. Though I spent hours upon hours practicing while my school buddies were doing Sports.
It was in the early '70s that I really got into Jazz, Jazz Rock, Jazz Fusion and World Music. Seeing Weather Report, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Larry Carlton, Steely Dan, John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, RTF, Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, VSOP, Freddie Hubbard and so many, many more amazing artists opened my eyes to the beauty and eloquent nature of Jazz. I really love the brilliant ensemble playing that is in Jazz!!
When I play and write music, it blends so many style together. Many fans ask me why my playing sounds so jazzy. It's because I understand Blue Notes, the phrasing, the tonality, time signatures and more. I can also play Rock, Folk, Soul, R n' B and other styles too. I seem to gravitate more and more as I get older to a jazzier style. Currently I'm 62 years old. I have released 2 CDs world-wide. Working on my 3rd.
I also teach Guitar/Bass/Music Theory to my students. They range from 6 years old to much, much older. (I was hired by the City of Aurora, CO to teach ages 6-13 specifically). Currently I teach 41 children in 5 classes. Additionally another 7 private students.
My wife, Meesh, and I love Jazz dearly. It was one of the things that we share together!
Most of the people that I know today do not get jazz. I try to explain what to listen for, but many times the music of Jazz is a bit much for them. So be it.
In a nutshell, I live, breath and listen to Music 24/7. No TV except the Food Channel and Weather.
I love John Kelman's articles. They are so insightful and well-constructed!
Thank you all for doing what you do.