Artists representing different generations of AACM’s musical influence include world renowned musicians Nicole Mitchell, flute; Dee Alexander, vocals; Tomeka Reid, cello; Rene Baker, violin; Ann Ward, piano and Coco Elysses, percussion.
What a year it has been for Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and not just in the Windy City, but also in the other music capitals that have long been enriched by the musical, spiritual, conceptual, downright levitating sounds of the South Side collective.
It’s hard to imagine a better way to acknowledge the AACM’s 50th than to bring together six AACM sisters, all important contributors to the organization’s great legacy and all astonishments in their own right, to fashion a performance capping off the year long celebration.
And so, simply enough, let us hear DEE ALEXANDER, vocalist nonpareil, who stopped being a best kept secret in the rest of the world with her stunning performance at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival and continued expanding her audience with her stunning 2014 album, “Songs My Mother Loves.” Equally at home with jazz standards and earth mother chants, she has the capability to redefine the music in any setting.
Let’s hear ANN WARD, who will be playing piano this evening, but is also treasured as a singer in such settings as the AACM Great Black Music Ensemble and AACM Vocal Ensemble and highly valued as a composer whose works have been featured by the all-female group Six Degrees.
Let’s hear NICOLE MITCHELL, who in recent years not only has redefined the flute in all manner of jazz settings, but also has expanded the instrument’s popularity – as reflected by her dominance of the flute category in magazine polls. Her Black Earth Ensemble represents a high point in the merger of music and African American myth and her relationships with an expanding circle of great players has only enhanced her reputation.
Let’s hear TOMEKA REID, who broke through this year with a quartet album that ranges from chamber sounds to jolly grooves, taking the cello past the boundaries that usually separate jazz, classical music and new music.
Let’s hear world class violinist and composer RENEE BAKER, who in addition to being an AACM stalwart who appeared with Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Strings) is artistic director of the Chicago Modern Orchestra Project, PEK Contemporary Project/ Berlin and the Mantra Blue Free Orchestra among many other musical projects.
And let’s hear COCO ELYSSES, an alumnus of the all-female ensemble Samana who will be playing percussion tonight but has also drawn serious attention as a singer, actor, voiceover artist, songwriter and arranger.
Listening to these women reminds us that they are an integral part of the AACM’s sound, spirit and uncompromising work ethic. After 50 years of creative music, we shouldn’t expect any less.