Muhal Richard Abrams
|Muhal Richard Abrams|
Muhal Richard Abrams, Moers Festival 2009
|Born||September 19, 1930|
|Origin||Chicago, Illinois, US|
|Genres||Free jazz, post-bop|
Abrams attended DuSable High School in Chicago. By 1946, he enrolled in music classes at Roosevelt University, but "I didn't get too much out of that, because it wasn't what I was hearing in the street". He then decided to study independently: "I've always had a natural ability to study and analyze things. I used that ability, not even knowing what it was (it was just a feeling) and started to read books." The books of Joseph Schillinger were very influential in Abrams' development. In Abrams' words:
From there, I acquired a small spinet piano and started to teach myself how to play the instrument and read the notes – or, first of all, what key the music was in. It took time and a lot of sweat. But I analyzed it and before long I was playing with the musicians on the scene. I listened to Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell and many others and concentrated on Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson for composition. Later I got scores and studied more extensive things that take place in classical composition and started to practice classical pieces on the piano.
Abrams' first gigs were playing the blues, R&B, and hard bop circuit in Chicago and working as a sideman with everyone from Dexter Gordon and Max Roach to Ruth Brown and Woody Shaw. In 1950 he began writing arrangements for the King Fleming Band, and in 1955 played in the hard-bop band Modern Jazz Two + Three, with tenor saxophonist Eddie Harris. After this group folded he kept a low profile until he organized the Experimental Band in 1962, a contrast to his earlier hard bop venture in its use of free jazz concepts. This band, with its fluctuating lineup, evolved into the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), emerging in May 1965 with Abrams as its president. Rather than playing in smoky night clubs, AACM members often rented out theaters and lofts where they could perform for attentive and open-minded audiences. The album Levels and Degrees of Light (1967) was the landmark first recording under Abrams' leadership. On this set, Abrams was joined by the saxophonists Anthony Braxton, Maurice McIntyre, vibraphonist Gordon Emmanuel, violinist Leroy Jenkins, bassists Leonard Jones and Charles Clark, and vocalist Penelope Taylor. Abrams also played with saxophonists Eddie Harris, Gordon, and other more bop-oriented musicians during this era.
Loft jazz era
Abrams moved to New York permanently in 1975 where he was involved in the local Loft Jazz scene. In 1983, he established the New York chapter of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.
In the 1970s, Abrams composed for symphony orchestras, string quartets, solo piano, voice, and big bands in addition to making a series of larger ensemble recordings that included harp and accordion. He is a widely influential artist, having played sides for many musicians early in his career, releasing important recordings as a leader, and writing classical works such as his "String Quartet No. 2", which was performed by the Kronos Quartet, on November 22, 1985, at the Carnegie Recital Hall in New York. He has recorded extensively under his own name (frequently on the Black Saint label) and as a sideman on others' records. Notably regarding the latter he has recorded with Anthony Braxton Duets 1976 on Arista Records, Marion Brown and Chico Freeman.
He has recorded and toured the United States, Canada and Europe with his orchestra, sextet, quartet, duo and as a solo pianist. His musical affiliations is a "who's who" of the jazz world, including Roach, Gordon, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Art Farmer, Sonny Stitt, Braxton, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Harris and many others. In 1990 Abrams won the Jazzpar Prize, an annual Danish prize within jazz. Abrams received a 1997 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award. In May 2009 the National Endowment for the Arts announced that Abrams would be one of the recipients of the 2010 NEA Jazz Masters Award. In June 2010, Abrams was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by New York City's premier jazz festival, known as the Vision Festival.
With Walter Perkins MJT+3
- Daddy-O Presents MJT+3 (1957)
With Roscoe Mitchell
With Joseph Jarman
- As If It Were the Seasons (1968)
With Anthony Braxton
- Three Compositions of New Jazz (1968)
- Creative Orchestra Music 1976 (Arista, 1976)
- Duets 1976 (Arista, 1976)
- Quintet (Basel) 1977 (hatOLOGY, 1977 )
- Creative Construction Company (Muse, 1970 )
- Creative Construction Company Vol. II (Muse, 1970 )
With Kenny Dorham
- Kenny Dorham Sextet (1970)
With Eddie Harris
- Instant Death (Atlantic, 1971)
- Eddie Harris Sings the Blues (Atlantic, 1972)
- Excursions (Atlantic, 1973)
- That Is Why You're Overweight (Atlantic, 1975)
With Marion Brown
- Sweet Earth Flying (Impulse!, 1974)
With Robin Kenyatta
- Beggars and Stealers (1977)
With Chico Freeman
With Woody Shaw
With Leroy Jenkins
- Lifelong Ambitions (Black Saint, 1977)
With George Lewis
- Shadowgraph 5 (1977)
With Barry Altschul
- You Can't Name Your Own Tune (1977)
With Clifford Jordan
- Inward Fire (Muse, 1978)
With Marty Ehrlich
- Emergency Peace (1990)
With Hamiet Bluiett
- Saying Something for All (1998)
- Larkin, Colin. The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Guinness, page 47, (1995) – ISBN 978-1-56159-176-3
- Cook, Richard (2005). Richard Cook's Jazz Encycolpedia. London: Penguin Books. p. 2. ISBN 0-141-00646-3.
- "Muhal Richard Abrams: The Advancement of Creative Music". (May 25, 2007). All About Jazz.
- Panken, T. Muhal Richard Abrams: The Advancement of Creative Music, All About Jazz May 25, 2007
- Schoenberg, Loren. The Npr Curious Listener's Guide to Jazz, Perigee, page 85, (2002) – ISBN 978-0-399-52794-4
- Kronos Quartet
- National Endowment for the Arts Announces the 2010 NEA Jazz Masters
- Ben Ratliff (June 26, 2010) "Honoring Heroes of Jazz, With Words, Silence and Improvisation". New York Times. p.C7.