22 February 2009

26-30 august 2000, 35th AACM Festival in Chicago - Leroy Jenkins Ensemble

AACM 35TH Anniversary Celebration
(Jimmy Jones in Jazz Now, September 2000)

The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) held their 35th Anniversary Celebration at the Museum of contemporary Arts in Chicago, April 26 - 30, 2000. These celebrations (or festivals) have been held every five years since the AACM was formed and I [Mr Jimmy Jones] was fortunate enough to attend the ones in 1985, 1990 and 1995.

The AACM was formed in 1965 when a group of young African American musicians including Muhal Richard Abrams, Steve McCall, Malachi Favors Maghostut, Kelan Phil Cohran, Fred Anderson, Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell met because they were dissatisfied with conditions for African American Musicians and the way their music was handled. The group established goals to cultivate young musicians and to create music of a high artistic level, to encourage sources of employment for worthy creative musicians, to set examples of high moral standards for musicians to uphold the tradition of elevated cultured musicians handed down from the past, and to stimulate spiritual growth in creative artists through participation in programs, concerts and recitals. The motto for the AACM is "Great Black Music Ancient to the Future." Among the best known AACM musicians are Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Lester Bowie, Henry Threadgill, Chico Freeman and Jack DeJohnette.

I missed the first day of the celebration which began at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday with a round table discussion about the AACM. This was followed by performances of students of the AACM School of Music.

The schedule for each of the other four days of the celebration were similar with two different masters of ceremony and two different groups performing each day. Between sets, awards were presented to three deserving individuals such as monster musician Muhal Richard Abrams, Von Freeman and Jodie Christian and surviving relatives of the late Steve McCall, Fred Hopkins and Lester Bowie. In addition, the well prepared program listed sites for jams for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Thursday concert was hosted by saxophonist Joseph Jarman and Jazz writer Neil Tesser. The concert began with a brief "Opening Drum Call" featuring seven percussionists performing on all types of instruments.

Leroy Jenkins led a ten piece group in the first of the two Thursday sets.

The group performed two Leroy Jenkins compositions and one David Boykin composition..

Thursday April 27, 8 pm

1 Opening drum call

Willel Afi-fi, African drums
Ajaramu, trap drums
Dushun Mosley, African drums
Ameen Muhammad, Libation
Avreaayl Ra, trap drums
Chad Taylor, trap drums
Benjamin C. Ford Ward, African drums

2-6 Leroy Jenkins Ensemble

Leroy Jenkins


David Boykin


Niki Mitchell


Jeffrey Parker


Taalib-Din Ziyad


Glenda Fairella Baker


Kenneth Green


Ann E. Ward


Rollo Radford


Chad Taylor


Leroy Jenkins (1932-2007) - An Appreciation
By Carman Moore, Published in March 5, 2007

Leroy Jenkins, pioneering violinist and composer, died in Manhattan on Saturday, February 24th from complications related to lung cancer. He was 74 years old. Prized equally in the avant-garde jazz community as in that of the new-music world, Jenkins was a leader in the post-World War II generation of musicians who worked the cracks between worlds. Whether it was as a violinist on a jazz scene that had precious few violinists or as an African-American composer in a classical music scene exhibiting few but growing numbers of black composers, Leroy's gift and passion for music made him seem to simply dive in and make himself at home. Thin and taut as a steel e string, and just as expressive and resilient, Jenkins seemed to clearly be composing as he improvised, while his composing seemed as naturally poured forth as inspired moments of improvisation.
Trained classically from childhood in his native Chicago, Jenkins' way with improvised jazz solos was unique. At times the listener might perceive Brahms or Tchaikovsky virtuosity in the middle of some wild otherwise clearly blues-based passage—one that might be as well a personal shout of triumph, joy, or anguish from a man's very soul. Just as he pushed the limits of jazz Leroy also pushed the limits of classical music. His was a unique American gift to the world of music.
I first met Leroy through an introduction in the mid '80s by the American symphonist Alvin Singleton. I had been trying to assemble the Skymusic Ensemble for several years, as an inter-stylistic chamber group that could make music that would be by turns read and improvised—listenable but always dangerous and unpredictable—Downtown crossed with Uptown. Sam Rivers on soprano saxophone, Gordon Gottlieb on percussion, Marianna Rosett on acoustic piano, Kitty Hay on flute, and Eric Johnson and Kenneth Bichel on synthesizers were the already brilliant members, but we needed a bit more edge. Alvin suggested Leroy. Violin? Edge? When I met him he seemed too gentle, though like our other members he also seemed a pleasure to be around. The rest is history. Leroy's wild and powerful sound and improvised choices took the Ensemble over the top.
And was he funny! On New Years Eve 1989 in Venice, on our way to play my score to Alvin Ailey's Goddess of the Waters, which was commissioned for the Ballet Company of La Scala, Skymusicians and any English speakers within earshot were treated non-stop to Gordon and Leroy laying down barrage after barrage of enough quips and foolishness to make Martin and Lewis and Abbot and Costello seem like Dick Cheney on tranquilizers. Sometime around sunset they both sailed off drunk in a gondola still yacking it up.
Just last year I found myself both in terror of things technical and in desperate need to stop scribbling parts with a pencil and grow up. Leroy put my mind at ease. "I'm using Sibelius," proudly announced this man not noted for a love of things left-brained. Hearing that, I was buoyed, gave it a try with occasional frantic calls for help to Leroy in Brooklyn, and now swear by the user-friendly software. Of course, the main factor here was Leroy's generosity of heart and belief in other people's right to life's wonders. Both hands-on and by example he was the best of teachers, and I was his student in many ways.
Leroy Jenkins was born on March 11, 1932 and grew up on the tough South Side of Chicago. One can only imagine what it must have been like for a small, frail, highly-intelligent black kid walking those streets with a violin. Maybe folks left him alone fearing he was packing, Capone-style. Actually as a sub-teen Leroy was already making a name for himself as a prodigy. With Professor O.W. Frederick at Ebenezer Baptist Church the young Jenkins not only learned the violin, but also the music of such pioneering black classical composers as Will Marion Cook and William Grant Still. From the legendary Walter Dyett at Chicago's Du Sable High School he took lessons in such woodwinds as bassoon, alto saxophone, and clarinet, although violin remained his passion. After graduating from Florida A & M University Jenkins taught school in Mobile, Alabama then returned to his beloved Chicago where in 1964 he joined the legendary Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (the A.A.C.M.), a "free-jazz" group influenced by the work of Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman. He subsequently formed the Creative Construction Company with Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton, and Steve McCall and toured Europe, moving to New York in 1970 to form the critically-acclaimed Revolutionary Ensemble with Jerome Cooper, drums, and bassist Sirone.
The '70s and '80s saw Jenkins, like friend and colleague Muhal Richard Abrams, developing a much-admired creative voice as a composer in the classical new-music world. His music was performed by such as the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Albany Symphony, the Kronos Quartet, Pittsurgh New Music Ensemble, Cleveland Chamber Symphony, and the New Music Consort. From the mid '80s Jenkins was, of course, violinist with our electro-acoustic Skymusic Ensemble, for many years in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. In 1989 Leroy Jenkins was commissioned by Hans Werner Henze for the Munich Biennale New Music Theater Festival to create the opera/ballet Mother of Three Sons with choreographer Bill T. Jones. Later the work was also staged at the New York City Opera and Houston Opera and received a Bessie Award for its "lyrical, intricately-constructed river of jazz and opera." Jenkins then turned much of his attention to creating music theatre works, among them: Fresh Faust, a rap opera; The Negro Burial Ground, a cantata presented at New York's Kitchen Center; the opera The Three Willies in collaboration with Homer Jackson presented at The Painted Bride of Philadelphia and at the Kitchen; and Coincidents an opera with librettist Mary Griffin, which is to receive its premiere at Roulette in New York. At the time of his death Mr. Jenkins was developing two new operas: Bronzeville, a history of South Side Chicago with Mary Griffin, and Minor Triad, a music drama about Paul Robeson, Lena Horne, and Cab Calloway set to a libretto he engaged me to write.
Jenkins's performing work continued apace. He collaborated frequently with dancer/choreographer Felicia Norton and was commissioned by the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival for collaborations with choreographers Molissa Fenley and Mark Dendy. A recent touring group called Equal Interest featured Jenkins on violin, Joseph Jarman on woodwinds, and pianist Myra Melford. Also recently he assembled a world- music improvisatory ensemble including Jin Hi Kim of Korea on Komungo, Rmesh Misra of India on Sarangi, the Malian Yacouba Sissoko on Kora, and himself on violin. For these and a lifetime of extraordinary work, Leroy Jenkins received many awards, including ones from the NEA, NYSCA, Rockefeller Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation (2004).
The likes of Leroy Jenkins will not soon be seen again. Tucked gem-like under his chin, his violin seemed some vital body part hard-wired into an extremely active brain. At work on a composition he was all excitement, open to suggestion, thoughtful, and fearless. He has left the world of music—too soon—a better place.

...here are the new links

Leroy Jenkins Ensemble - (2000) 35 AACM Anniversary Concert - [FLAC]


partt 2

part 3

part 4



LYM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jazzme said...

For some reason pt 1 of this does not want to work , thought it might be my pc so I called a couple of people to have them try and they could not get it to work either Steve

Anonymous said...

Thanks LYM ... great stuff ,fine article too.

Anonymous said...

even for me part one does not want start! please may help me? this looks very interesting thank youuuuu

luomosa said...

oppss part one does not work... may help? thank you this one looks very good

LYM said...

@jazzme, M and anyone here,
Hi Steve You're right,It doesn't work...probably some problems with mediafire. Let me try another way.

Thanks for the advice and apologies for this problem.

Thanks to M for the appreciation, I've made a long search to find those writings fo thanks for Your kindness.

jazzme said...

Just the first link does not work the others are fine .

gerireig said...

For the last month or so, nothing on Mediafire at this site works for me. Too bad-such wonderful music.

jazzme said...

LYM it's just the one link all my files work fine over at any genre goes , may try reuploading pt one to media fire again . I have seen this happen with other file sharing sites as well Steve

LYM said...

@ to everyone here,
I APOLOGIZE for some trouble with the links!
But the Leroy music is amazing so...

...here are the new links, now everyting's OK.

File name: Leroy Jenkins Ensemble - (2000) 35 AACM Anniversary Concert - [FLAC]


partt 2

part 3

part 4


kinabalu said...

Please go on with the AACM 35th anniversary concerts. I have the entire set plus two more, runnning up to 4 gb in total, so I can always back you up, if needed.

Arcturus said...

profoundly grateful for this, thank you - Leroy's long been a major fave - will start d/l'ing immediately - & would love to hear more of these AACM concerts if/when you guys can manage it

I'm still floating from last night - have waited to hear Muhal Richard Abrams for over 30 years, & finally! in duet w/ Roscoe Mitchell - minimalist opening organically developing into full blown improv over an hour or so - w/ 5 minute encore - just stunning!

Arcturus said...

Turning Corners: The Life and Music of Leroy Jenkins

By Carl E. Baugher
Cadence Jazz Books

"King (queen?) of classical music, the violin has had a checked history in jazz. Saddled with the reputation of having a tone too quiet for raucous syncopating and demanding extensive study to play correctly, the number of improvising violinists has always been pretty limited. Joe Venuti, Eddie South, Stuff Smith, France's Stéphane Grapelli and Denmark's Svend Asmussen are the few cited in histories of Swing and Bop. Michael White, Jean-Luc Ponty and Michael Urbaniak -- the later two more-or-less lost to fusion -- took the fiddle into the 1960s and 1970s. Only with the rise of pure improvised music did strings finally come into their own. Today the improvisations of such violin and viola players as Billy Bang, Matt Maneri, Phil Wachsmann and Mark Feldman [ya forgot the amazing India Cooke!!! -A] are as valued as other instrumentalists' contributions.

Surmounting this group, and the link between jazz's earlier and its modern traditions, is 69-year-old Leroy Jenkins, who pioneered a dominant role for four-string concert instruments in creative music. Carl Baugher's long-in-the-works biography offers the definitive portrait of this accomplished composer and improviser.

Written in simple, workman-like prose, Baugher takes both parts of his subhead very seriously. Moreover, once Jenkins starts to record -- at the shockingly late age of 36 -- the writer begins to offer a detailed assessment of all his work, whether it's commercially available or not.

The reasons for Jenkins late entry into the spotlight were a combination of racism and personal problems. Born and raised in Chicago, he seemed to have developed a Jones for serious music and hard drugs at about the same time. A checkered period as a scholarship music student at Florida's A&M, a long stretch teaching music in Mobile, Ala.'s segregated school system, the extravagant habits related to a steady income -- he also played R&B gigs as a saxophonist -- and too few jazz opportunities, didn't help matters much.

Sobriety relating to both his personal life and music came when he returned to the Windy City in the mid-1960s. Impressed by the work of such committed thinkers as multi-reedist Roscoe Mitchell and pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, he became a charter member of the infant Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), carving out a place for violin in that rapidly changing scene.

Soon he was lauded in Europe, where he first traveled in a band with fellow AACMers trumpeter Leo Smith and woodwind experimenter Anthony Braxton, and later still in Jazz's centre of the world: New York. Sidemen gigs with the likes of pianist Alice Coltrane and saxophonist Albert Ayler soon gave way to membership in the legendary cooperative, the Revolutionary Ensemble, with percussionist Jerome Cooper and bassist Sirone.

Finally Jenkins went out on his own, putting together his own bands, ranging in style from bluesy to experimental, and often featuring a chordal instrument such as a guitar or piano in the front line to counterbalance his violin and viola contributions. Most recently, he has jumped bow first into so-called "serious" music, giving solo recitals, accepting commissions to write for chamber ensembles and New music groups, as well as creating the score for an opera.

Baugher's comprehensive familiarity with Jenkins -- he has produced and recorded sessions for him, as well as extensively interviewed the violinist and other participants -- gives this volume the kind of authority more distanced observers lack. There's no sycophancy however, with the author explaining which Jenkins' recordings aren't worth investigating -- due to less than appropriate musicians or imprecise sound --and which are clearly essential.

However, the constant itemization and analysis of so many unreleased or "audience" tapes throughout sometimes give this volume an air of fanzine fetishism. We would hope that Baugher wouldn't want to be compared to those obsessives who insist that the only way to really appreciate the Rolling Stones, for instance, is to hear a bootleg tape of a warm up club performance recorded by a roadie in the weeks following Altamont. Often, the book appears to mention more unavailable music than accessible sessions. To take the most charitable view of his opinions on these numerous private sessions, perhaps they pinpoint the wealth of first rate material that could be released by committed record companies that would add to our appreciation of Jenkins' artistry.

Some of the most interesting parts of Turning Corners come in those large sections when Baugher quotes extensively from Jenkins himself. Nonetheless, the volume does lose something as it progresses and narrowly concentrates on the man's musical career. Minute discussion of the music and recordings subsumes the man's personal story.
Granted, Jenkins expresses much of himself in his compositions and performances. Yet it would be interesting, for example, to explore the feelings of someone who, after a successful second marriage became a first time father at 46. Or to find out his take on a situation that suddenly dubs his art "serious" because of its new, Eurocentric concert hall association, after a lifetime working in the Black vernacular tradition.

Still, this is the essential volume for anyone drawn to either Jenkins' work or who appreciates the sound of the violin in jazz."

Ken Waxman

Arcturus said...

another from zee files:

As a child he [Bo Diddley] moved to Chicago, where he was raised by his mother's second cousin, a Sunday school teacher from whom he would take his surname of McDaniel. During this time he studied violin with Professor O.W. Frederick, playing that instrument in the Ebenezer Baptist Church on Sundays with Leroy Jenkins later of the Revolutionary Ensemble. At the age of ten he got a guitar for Christmas, and by 1951 was playing at the 708 Club in Chicago.

Arcturus said...

& lastly:

Leroy Jenkins @ Meet the Composer:

MTC: When did you get away from the structure of be-bop?
LJ: In 1964, when I went back to Chicago and got involved with the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). At that time, the organization was just being chartered and all the original founders, Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, and Joseph Jarman were very active. I had known Muhal beforehand. I remember him talking about starting the organization, while I was still in Mobile. They were making a conscious decision to do something different. Most of the guys were saxophone players who were influenced by what Ornette Coleman was doing. I had no idea what it would be like until I heard it for myself. The first thing I heard was a concert by Roscoe and his band, and that was it. The players didn't play chord changes. As result of the freedom, you didn't hear the same licks that you heard in be-bop. I had never heard anything like it before. I started playing in Muhal's big band. We used charts, but they weren't like any I had ever seen. The music wasn't written with 8 or 12 bar phrases. It was strictly improvisational. Muhal would tell us what he wanted to hear, and we would do it. Through improvising, we created what would be the "head" for the tunes. When I first played with those guys I was able to explore. It was amazing. I could roam. I could play from my imagination… I could be "violinistic."
MTC: How did the other players treat you as the only string player, beside bass?
LJ: Everybody loved that I played the violin. They encouraged me.
MTC: As an improviser, how important was it to lose chord changes?
LJ: Playing be-bop was like having train tracks in front of you. There is only one way to go: straight ahead, follow the tracks...you can't go left or right. Without changes, I could play anything I wanted. As Duke (Ellington) said, as long as "it swung" it was cool. I don't mean a 2/4 kind of swing like a be-bop tune. It "swung" in that it had movement. It had an arc. You know what I mean? That became my thing: getting from one place to another in a tune.
MTC: You did Coltrane's Giant Steps on one of your solo recordings (Solo, released by Lovely Music 1998). That tune is a serious workout as far as chord changes go, with chords changing every beat. How did you approach that?
LJ: If someone wanted to practice playing over chord changes, Giant Steps would be a great exercise. The chord changes come at you so fast. Who wants to play an exercise? You want to enjoy yourself. I kept the melody in my head, but I wasn't following the tracks like I mentioned before. You know? I played my version of that tune. My version was not about playing the chord changes. Don't get me wrong, I love the piece. I love to hear Coltrane playing it. It's personal to Coltrane's ideology at that time. But, my version isn't about that. I probably had more fun playing it than Coltrane did (laughs).
MTC: I read that you developed a new concept of improvisation when you were teaching at California Institute for the Arts. Could you explain?
LJ: I wouldn't say it was new. I would call it a form of "orchestrated improvisation." I introduce motifs and melodies, and set up an improvisational map. You start with a melody and end with a melody and improvise in between. So you get a balance of the written part with the chaos of the improv. For example, with 4 different musicians, we take 12 bars…4 beats in each bar. In those 12 bars, I set up a certain meter. The players improvise within the 12 bars… solos or duets, depending on the map. After one finishes, another comes in and so on. With the basic formula you utilize the number of players, the number of beats, and the number of measures. Depending on how many players there are it's wide open. With 12 players, you can have 4 groupings of 3 players, or 3 groupings of 4 players, or whatever you choose. You see? When players think in terms of the meter, it's easier for them to create a direction within their improvisation, and, if they repeat it in an indeterminable amount of time - I.A.T. is how I notate it in the score - the players become accustomed to the form and relax. The great thing is no matter how many times it repeats, it's always different.
MTC: The piece "Color Eugoloid," that was premiered last month by Relâche, utilized your concept. How did Relâche approach it?
LJ: It was hard at first, but Relâche is a very open minded group. They're classically trained musicians and this was new to some of them. The violist was very upset with me. The way he was looking at me one day, I thought he was going to kill me (laughs). I explained to him that improvisation is what I'm all about. For me to write something without any improvisation involved would be pure hypocrisy. But, after a while he (the violist) came up big. He smoked.
MTC: Do you encounter a lot of hesitation from players who aren't used to improvising?
LJ: All the time. Some of the players are really shook up and fearful. When I wrote a string quartet for The Kronos Quartet some years back, they were a little hesitant at first. They would ask: what do you want me to do? In the end, they were cool with it. That was way back in the early eighties. They weren't famous yet. Now look at them. They were the ones that introduced my music to a large audience. Anyway, it was something they had never done before at the time. When you ask classically trained players to improvise, they think they should play jazz licks. For some reason Americans, and the West in general, think of improvisation as jazz. They haven't got it out of their system yet.
MTC: Why do you find your CDs in the jazz section, when they're not really jazz?
LJ: That's the reason some of us don't get credit for what we do, because people don't know where to put us. People like myself and Anthony Braxton, Muhal, Roscoe, Wadada Leo Smith….we're all in the same boat. I don't know why it is. The classical people say I'm not classical, and the jazz people say I'm not jazz. There I am in the middle. What are you gonna do? I've listened to some of my recordings over the years and you know what? I play the violin real well. I am a fine violinist. If I fit into a category and there was no confusion as to "what" music I play, I would be rich. You wouldn't be able to get an interview with me. (laughs) I would be too famous. Too busy. As it is, I have the time for you. I don't have any trouble with it anymore. Even though I could go on and on about this, I understand.
MTC: How often do you play?
LJ: Not very often. I pick it up once a week or so. I've been playing for sixty years. I don't need to practice. If I get a gig, I just show up. I don't need to rehearse. I'm going to Chicago soon to play with Joseph Jarman at the Hot House. We're not rehearsing anything. We've known each other for years. What is there to rehearse? As the old be-boppers used to say, we just "hit." Right now, I'm working on getting some of my old music onto my computer. That's a big project.
MTC: String magazine called you "the father of extended improvisational string music." What's your response to that?
LJ: Isn't that something? I don't like the idea of being called the father of anything (laughs). I accept the compliment though. It's very nice.


Charles Amerkhanian is the interlocutor - it's available for listening over @ archive.org iirc - incl. a duet performance w/ Marilyn Crispell

(thanks again for this performance . . .

DRONSZ said...

This one is deserving a reup...