Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Muhal Richard Abrams.

By the time I started listening to AACM musicians (the Art Ensemble and Braxton) around 1973, Abrams had been on the scene for quite a while, having released a couple of records on Delmark, played with Eddie Harris and, not least, founded the AACM itself in 1965 (with Steve McCall, Phil Cohran and...I think Malachi Favors, yes?). But he was a little mysterious to me, one of those guys who looked different in every photo I saw. He showed up on the sublime AEC "Fanfare for the Warriors" recording in '73, but didn't have a regular label presence until Arista came along a couple years later. Gradually, records began appearing and he began to acquire a deservedly enormous reputation as the eminence grise (despite being only in his mid-40s at the time) of the avant-jazz world. He moved to NYC around this time and was a fixture on the downtown loft scene, spending much time at Environ, which I helped run from November 1976 until early 1980 (under John Fischer's direction). I got to know Muhal fairly well during this period. He was (and is) an absolutely wonderful person, quite willing to sit down and talk for several hours on any number of subjects. His rep, unlike many a musician, was one as the quintessential family man and, as near as I can tell, it was an accurate one. The cover from his second album, "Young at Heart, Wise in Time", hints strongly at this. (That's his daughter, I believe named Richarda, who I remember as the extraordinarily pleasant young lady taking admissions at AACM concerts in the late 80s and 90s at the Ethical Culture Center).

Beautiful photo, eh? Not your typical jazz cover, avant or otherwise, but it certainly refers to the very familial spirit that the AACM fostered. It's a very good record also, I believe the first time both Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Threadgill appeared on disc.

4 comments:

Mark Forman said...

Muhal was a very spiritual gentleman, in the truest sense of the word. He was a true leader and led by example.

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