Jack DeJohnette – Muhal Richard Abrams – Larry Gray – Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill
On August 29, 2013, Drummer/Composer Jack DeJohnette, Pianist/Composer Muhal Richard Abrams, Bassist/Cellist Larry Gray, Multi-Instrumentalist/Composer Roscoe Mitchell and Multi-Instrumentalist/Composer Henry Threadgill performed at the opening to Chicago’s annual jazz festival as part of their “Made In Chicago” series. Five of the city’s most recognized and beloved global jazz ambassadors assembled all together for the first time for an historical recorded performance at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park for 10,000 fans.
The expressive, passionate creations experienced in this concert, “the whirl and churn,” come from an identifiable well of inspiration: a music scene in Chicago growing out of a time in history. For these five thirsty artists, the well has been a consistent mirage before their eyes, many decades long, and the promise of fulfillment remains their purpose and obsession.
Jack DeJohnette, who had just turned 70 and was recently named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, received a letter from the producers of the Chicago Jazz Festival stating that they would like to honor him. He was asked to perform at the festival in 2013, free to present any program of music and amalgam of musicians he would like.
“I saw this as a great opportunity to come home and reunite everyone,” said Jack, and the timeline jumps back to 1962, when the drummer was primarily a pianist and studying music at Wilson Junior College (now Kennedy-King College) on Chicago’s South Side with classmates Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill. “We had one free period each week,” remembered Roscoe, “and Jack said, ‘Let’s have a (jam) session during the free period.’ It goes all the way back to there.”
Made In Chicago’s release coincides with the 50 year anniversary of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), a non-profit organization founded by Muhal Richard Abrams (who had organized an Experimental Band in 1962), pianist Jodie Christian, drummer Steve McCall, and composer Phil Cohran. In the 1960s and 1970s, AACM members were among the most important and innovative in all of jazz, presenting an adventurous mixing of avant-garde jazz, classical, and world music. DeJohnette was invited to be a regular member of Muhal’s famed Experimental Band, and his friends Roscoe and Henry, soon followed him. The Monday night “workshop” rehearsals took place at Lincoln Center on 39th Street. Later, a space opened up on Oakland Boulevard where the musicians could put on concerts and offer lessons.
The end result, Made in Chicago, is a first ever recording of historical proportions, a six song tapestry of intricate and complex performances woven together by five legends – Jack DeJohnette, Muhal Richard Abrams, Larry Gray, Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill – and it offers a superb realization of what constitutes the Improviser’s Art