Wadada Leo Smith returns to Chicago to conduct the AACM Great Black Music Ensemble | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Wadada Leo Smith returns to Chicago to conduct the AACM Great Black Music Ensemble

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Four years after its golden anniversary, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians asserts a contemporary presence that extends its legacy. The organization first convened on Chicago’s south side as a collective, community-rooted effort to create possibilities for African-American musicians of all ages and experience levels to present their own music. In 2018 the AACM Great Black Music Ensemble—a variably sized group whose repertoire includes new work as well as pieces by AACM members— played monthly concerts at the Stony Island Arts Bank with guests such as Makaya McCraven, Marvin Tate, and Ben LaMar Gay. For tonight’s fund-raiser concert, the GBME will shift to the Logan Center for the Arts Performance Hall and welcome a venerated trumpeter and early member of the AACM: Wadada Leo Smith. Among the first things Smith did when he moved to Chicago in 1967 was ring up multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton and start playing and sharing compositions with him and other AACM members. He didn’t stick around long—Smith, Braxton, and AACM violinist Leroy Jenkins left town for Paris in 1969—but he’s regularly returned to perform with AACM-associated groups ever since. Smith’s latest album, Rosa Parks: Pure Love (TUM), is an oratorio that weaves an international quartet of woman singers, string and trumpet quartets, and samples of music by his old traveling companions Braxton and Jenkins into a quiltlike assemblage of reflections on the mid-20th-century civil rights movement. But for this appearance, he will first present material from Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk (TUM), an unaccompanied trumpet recital that explores and extends the sublime melodies and meaningful silences of Thelonious Monk’s music. In the second set, Smith will conduct the AACM Great Black Music Ensemble’s performances of Joy: Spiritual: Fire, a piece he composed for his electric-guitar-oriented band Organic, and the orchestral Queen Hatshepsut, an orchestral piece dedicated to the female pharaoh from the 15th century BCE.


Ed. note: This show was rescheduled for Sunday, 6/23, at the Logan Center for the Arts. This article originally ran in our February 7, 2019 issue.  v

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