The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians

Celebrates Their 40th Anniversary

photos and article by Jimmie Jones

The 40th AACM Anniversary Festival was held at the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Chicago on May 8, 2005. Out of town artists included Joseph Jarman, Oliver Lake, George Lewis, James Newton, Reggie Nicholson and Rita Warford all of whom performed on several sets with over thirty Chicago based musicians.

 Oliver Lake

 James Newton

 Nicole Mitchell

The first event occurred at 2:00 P.M. before an audience of about one hundred in a room adjacent to the theater where a round table discussion was held on the history of the AACM by a panel of Douglas Ewart (current AACM president,) Joseph Jarman, Rita Warford, George Lewis, Nicole Mitchell and Ann Ward with Art "Turk" Burton as moderator.

At 4:30 P.M., a concert by the AACM School Performance Ensemble under the direction of Ann Ward was held in the theater. At 6:30 pm another panel discussed their involvement in compositions.

The 40th AACM Celebration concert began at 7:30 pm as they normally do with a percussion ritual performed by Dushund Mosley, Isaiah Spencer, Avreeayl Ra, Vincent Davis, Michael Reed, Art "Turk" Burton and Willes Afi Fi under the direction of Reggie Nicholson. This was followed by a set by the AACM Fire Trio consisting of Jodie Christian on piano, Ari Brown on saxophones and Reggie Nicholson on percussion.

 Dushun Mosley

 Mwata Bowden, Douglas Ewart, Rita Warford, Oliver Lake, Edward Wilkerson and Joseph Jarman

Many of the musicians and fans might not have been moved as I was but the set that knocked me out the most was on one featuring Rita Warford blending her horn like spontaneous vocal sounds with five master reedmen, Douglas Ewart and Mwata Bowden on his right and Oliver Lake, Edward Wilkerson and Joseph Jarman on her left, performing all types of saxophones, clarinets and flutes.
All eight of the sets performed at the AACM concert were great but flutist Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble set was especially outstanding. How could it not be with twelfth artists like Nicole and James Newton, both on flute, David Boykin on reeds, new trumpet star and member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago Corey Wilkes, Tony Herrera on trombone and shells, Temeka Rend on cello, Justin Dilliard on piano, Darius Savage on bass, Art "Turk" Burton on percussion, Avreeayl Ra on drums, Dee Alexander on vocals and Lyiola, a fabulous dancer.

Avreeayl Ra

Eight Bold Souls with Oliver Lake: Isaiah Jackson, Mwata Bowden, Robert Griffin, Oliver Lake and Edward Wilkenson

Following intermission, pianist Ann Ward and trombonist George Lewis performed as a duo. I was happy that George who received the MacArthur Fellowship in 2002 performed acoustically and not with computers as he has in the past.

Most of the members of Edward Wilkerson's Eight Bold Souls have been playing together for over 20 years. For this festival, special guests Oliver Lake was added on alto sax for two numbers and Chicago's legendary tenor saxophonists Fred Anderson for one number.

Trombonist Isaiah Jacobson led a group that included Corey Wilkes on trumpet, Vincent Davis on balafon, Art "Turk" Burton on bongos plus a percussionist and bassist who were unidentified.

The closing headliner for the festival was Mwata Bowden's Great Black Music Ensemble which consisted of practically all of the musicians performing at the festival. The program listed twenty-seven musicians, however, at least a half dozen additional musicians including James Newton were added. The ensemble performed compositions by Mwata Bowden and Douglas Ewart.

 Mwata Bowden directing the Great Black Music Ensemble

Immediately after the Ensemble set, AACM Vice President Nicole Mitchell pleaded with the audience to attend and participate in fund raisers being held at the Hot House and Velvet Lounge Clubs to help raise $120,000 needed by Fred Anderson to move his world renowned Velvet Lounge Club. The Velvet Lounge building is being torn down and will be replaced by a condo complex. A new building one-and-a-half blocks away is ready for the Velvet Lounge move but Fred has to pay for plumbing, electricity and bathroom installments as well as other expenses. Donations can be sent to Velvet Lounge, 2128 1/2 South Indiano, Chicago, Illinois 60616. Phone: 773.791.9050. Web site:

Robert Griffin and Fred Anderson

 Photos and article by Jimmie Jones


Back to Contents Page
Jazz Now Interactive

Copyright Jazz Now, June 2005 edition, all rights reserved