Favors primarily played the double bass, but also played the electric bass guitar, banjo, zither, gong, and other instruments. He began playing double bass at age fifteen and began performing professionally upon graduating high school. Early performances included work with Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard. By 1965, he was a founder of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and a member of Muhal Richard Abrams' Experimental Band.
At some point he added the word "Maghostut" to his name and because of this he is commonly listed as "Malachi Favors Maghostut." Musically he is most associated with bebop, hard bop, and particularly free jazz.
Favors was a protégé of Chicago bassist Wilbur Ware. His first known recording was a 1953 session with tenor saxophonist Paul Bascomb. He made an LP with Chicago pianist Andrew Hill (1957). He began working with Roscoe Mitchell in 1966; this group eventually became the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Favors also worked outside the group, with artists including Sunny Murrary, Archie Shepp, and Dewey Redman.
Prominent records include Natural and the Spiritual (solo bass, 1977) and Sightsong (duets with Muhal Richard Abrams, 1975). In 1994 he played with Roman Bunka (Oud) at Berlin Jazz Fest and recorded the German Critics Poll Winner album Color me Cairo.
Death & legacy
Favors died of pancreatic cancer in 2004, aged 76. Since his death, there have been several recorded tributes by fellow musicians (and especially Chicagoans), including Big M, A Tribute to Malachi by Kahil El'Zabar and the "Malachi Favors Suite" for unaccompanied double bass, composed and recorded by fellow Chicago bassist Karl E. H. Seigfried.
- Natural & The Spiritual (solo 1977) - AECO Records
with Art Ensemble of Chicago
With Archie Shepp
- Blasé (BYG Records, 1969)
With Roman Bunka
- Color Me Cairo (Enja, 1995)
With Andrew Hill
- So In Love (Warwick, 1960)
With Roscoe Mitchell
- Before There Was Sound (Nessa Records, 1965; issued 2011)
- Nonaah (Nessa Records, 1977)
- The Flow of Things (Black Saint, 1986)
- Hey Donald (Delmark, 1995)
With Dewey Redman
- Tarik (BYG Actuel, 1969)
With Ahmed Abdullah Quartet
- Liquid Magic (Silkheart, 1987)
With Fred Anderson
- Black Horn Long Gone (Southport Records, 1993)
- Sacred Love (Sound Aspects, 1985)
- Another Kind Of Groove' (Sound Aspects Records, 1986)
- The Ancestors Are Amongst Us (Katalyst Entertainment, 1987)
- Alika Rising At Leverkusener Jazztage (Sound Aspects Records, 1989)
- Renaissance of the Resistance (Delmark, 1993)
- Big Cliff (Delmark, 1994)
- Jitterbug Junction (CIMP, 1997)
- Big Cliff (Delmark, 1994)
- Conversations - Archie Shepp Meets Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio (Delmark, 1999)
- Africa N'da Blues featuring Pharoah Sanders (Delmark, 1999)
With Tatsu Aoki
- 2 x 4 (Southport Records, 1999)
With Wadada Leo Smith