“Challenging, thorny, dense, dissonant music that avoided certain jazz conventions. …In a word, exhilarating.” —Chicago Tribune
Minneapolis, February 27, 2015—Chicago-born jazz pianist, composer, NEA Jazz Master, and one of the most influential jazz drummers of the 20th century, Jack DeJohnette revisits the avant-garde scene that is synonymous with his musical roots and plays tribute to the 50th anniversary of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Made in Chicago performs on Thursday, March 12, at 8 pm in the William and Nadine McGuire Theater. This extraordinary gathering of free jazz giants features three of the greatest artists to emerge from the AACM: pianist/composer Muhal Richard Abrams and reedists/composers Henry Threadgill and Roscoe Mitchell. The quintet is completed by prolific Chicago bassist Larry Gray. Expect an evening of uncompromised creativity and unmatched virtuosity with no rules left unbroken.
About Made in Chicago
With Made in Chicago, Jack DeJohnette celebrates a reunion with old friends. More than 50 years ago, DeJohnette, Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill were all classmates at Wilson Junior College on Chicago’s Southside, pooling energies and enthusiasms in jam sessions. Shortly thereafter Jack joined Muhal Richard Abrams’ Experimental Band, and Roscoe and Henry soon followed him. When Abrams co-founded the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in 1965, DeJohnette, Mitchell and Threadgill were involved from the outset, presenting concerts and contributing to each other’s work under the AACM umbrella. DeJohnette then relocated to New York, but remained a frequent visitor and collaborator.
Invited to present a program of his own choosing in the context of the Chicago Jazz Festival, Jack DeJohnette brought his old colleagues together for a concert at Millennium Park in August 2013, completing the group with the addition of bassist/cellist Larry Gray. This live recording, documenting their first performance as a quintet, was mixed by DeJohnette and Manfred Eicher at New York’s Avatar Studio. The album is issued as the AACM begins its 50th year anniversary year, and is both a powerful contemporary statement and a reminder of the wealth of great diverse music and innovative approaches to playing, writing and arranging which the organization has introduced over the years.
In the album liner notes, Jack gives much of the credit to Muhal Richard Abrams, for leading by example in the early days. “Muhal’s door was always open. He wanted to explore different ways of composing and improvising, and then demonstrated to me, Roscoe, Joseph [Jarman] and Malachi [Favors] those different possibilities. It felt natural, and we saw there were other ways to express ourselves through improvisation. Most importantly, we began to recognize something in each other.” Muhal emphasizes that “it wasn’t a process of encouragement. Everyone came ready to be an individual. That’s all it took. And it’s quite strong to be amongst people who want to pursue their individualism and accept that realization…. It felt special and unique because everyone was there for the right reasons, and everyone’s efforts seemed synchronized.” Henry Threadgill notes that “We gravitated toward people with a certain kind of voice and vision…When you’re young you like to look for people who want to try the things you want to try, to find some kind of comradeship.” Roscoe Mitchell observes that the work, and the mutual inspiration, is a continuing process: “Every time I get together with musicians from the AACM it’s like we are just picking up from wherever we left off. I think you can achieve great things in music by having these longstanding relationships with people. If you told me back then that this thing never stops, I might not have believed you. But now I see that’s really true.”
Along the way Mitchell, Threadgill, Abrams and DeJohnette himself have changed the history of the music, with many landmark recordings and volatile concerts. Though younger than these meanwhile iconic players, bassist and cellist Larry Gray now also qualifies as a veteran of the Chicago jazz scene. Some of his earliest recordings were with Roscoe Mitchell and Jodie Christian, and he grew up absorbing the innovations of the AACM along with a wide scope of jazz and classical music and more. He first played with DeJohnette in the early 1990s with another set of legendary Chicago soloists including Von Freeman and Ira Sullivan.
Tickets to Jack DeJohnette’s Made in Chicago are: $35 ($30 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600
The Walker Art Center’s performing arts programs are made possible by generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through the Doris Duke Performing Arts Fund, the William and Nadine McGuire Commissioning Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Performing Arts programs and commissions at the Walker are generously supported by members of the Producers’ Council: Russell Cowles; Nor Hall and Roger Hale; King’s Fountain/Barbara Watson Pillsbury and Henry Pillsbury; Emily Maltz; Dr. William W. and Nadine M. McGuire; Leni and David Moore, Jr.; Josine Peters; Mike and Elizabeth Sweeney; and Frances and Frank Wilkinson.