Air (free jazz trio)

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OriginChicago, Illinois
GenresJazz, free jazz
Years active1971–1986
Past members

Air was a Chicago-based free jazz trio founded in 1971 by saxophone player, Henry Threadgill, double bassist, Fred Hopkins, and drummer, Steve McCall.[1] They combined radical free improvisation with a strong sense of tune and equal emphasis on each instrument in the group.[2]

They began when Threadgill was asked by Columbia College in Chicago, to arrange a number of Scott Joplin songs. Joplin was so strongly associated with piano that the musicians enjoyed the challenge of performing his trademark songs without piano. They opted to play them as rags and as a basis for jazz improvisation.

The group recorded twelve albums, among them Air Lore from 1979 on the Arista/Novus label of Arista Records, which is a recording of improvisations over more Scott Joplin songs as well as selections by Jelly Roll Morton and a Henry Threadgill original. It remains a classic.[3] Other albums of note are Air Time from 1977, and 80° Below '82 from 1982. The Penguin Guide to Jazz included Air Song and Air Time in its suggested "Core Collection."[4]

Air broke up and reformed several times, and after McCall's death Andrew Cyrille performed as part of the trio. They released two albums with drummer Pheeroan Aklaff, as New Air on Black Saint Records.


Title Year Label
Air Song 1975 Whynot (Japan)
India Navigation (US)
Air Raid 1976 Whynot (Japan)
India Navigation (US)
Live Air 1977 Black Saint
Air Time 1977 Nessa
Open Air Suit 1978 Novus
Montreux Suisse 1978 Novus
Air Lore 1979 Novus
Air Mail 1980 Black Saint
80° Below '82 1982 Antilles
Live at Montreal International Jazz Festival as New Air 1984 Black Saint
Air Show No. 1 as New Air 1986 Black Saint


  1. ^ Mandel, Howard (2002). "Air". In Barry Kernfeld (ed.). The new Grove dictionary of jazz, vol. 1 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. pp. 20–21. ISBN 1-56159-284-6.
  2. ^ Allmusic
  3. ^ Gold, Gerald (7 February 1988). "Records Notes: A Recording Studio As Artists See It". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Cook, Richard; Brian Morton (2006) [1992]. "Air". The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. The Penguin Guide to Jazz (8th ed.). New York: Penguin. pp. 13. ISBN 0-14-102327-9.