Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith & Joseph Jarman | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith & Joseph Jarman


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In the early 60s Chicago's forward-thinking musicians, orphaned by the withering of the local jazz scene and crowded out by rock 'n' roll, found it nearly impossible to get gigs. So in 1965 a group of them, including reedists Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman, banded together as the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and began booking concerts into coffeehouses, churches, and small theaters. The AACM also served as an incubator for their extravagantly inclusive approach to music: Mitchell and Jarman, who between them play virtually every type of saxophone or flute ever devised, weren't averse to the earnest intensity that characterized the emerging New York-based free jazz of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler, but on their 1966 debut albums, Sound and Song For, that kind of high-energy free blowing coexists with scored compositions, poetry readings, and nonvirtuosic textural explorations played on bells, maracas, a half-full water can, and other "little instruments." The two men collaborated for a quarter century in the theatrical and eclectic Art Ensemble of ChicagoJarman, who's become a Zen Buddhist priest, left the group in 1993 to run an aikido dojo in New Yorkand they still share the stage from time to time. Mitchell, who now lives in Wisconsin, has covered even more musical ground outside the Art Ensemble than in it: he's played avant-classical with the trio Space, whose two early-80s albums were just reissued by Mutable; constructed overdubbed reed-and-percussion sketches for the 1994 solo disc Sound Songs (Delmark); and masterminded jazz of orchestral scope and crushing density with the Note Factory, which thrilled at last year's Jazz Festival despite an appalling sound mix. Mississippi-born trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith is also a longtime AACM member, and his involvement with that collective is likewise just one chapter in an amazing biography. Since making his recording debut on Anthony Braxton's 3 Compositions of New Jazz in 1968, he's converted to Rastafarianism; lived in Iceland, where he picked up an instrument he calls a "seal horn"; held the Dizzy Gillespie Chair at Cal Arts; and recorded with artists as disparate as Henry Kaiser and Thomas Mapfumo. At these two shows Mitchell, Jarman, and Smith will perform compositions and improvisations. Friday and Saturday, June 15 and 16, 9 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.

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