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Wed, 09.29.1965

The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians Begins

*On this date in 1965, we celebrate the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).

The AACM is a nonprofit organization founded in Chicago by pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, pianist Jodie Christian, drummer Steve McCall, and composer Phil Cohran. The AACM is devoted "to nurturing, performing, and recording serious, original music," according to its charter. It supports and encourages jazz performers, composers, and educators.

Although founded in the jazz tradition, the group's outreach and influence has, according to Larry Blumenfeld, "touched nearly all corners of modern music." In the 1960s, jazz music was losing ground (popularity) to rock music, and the founders of the AACM felt that a proactive group of musicians would add creativity and outlet for new music. The AACM was centered on an Experimental Band since 1962. The musicians were generally steadfast in their commitment to their music despite a lack of performance venues and sometimes indifferent audiences.

In the 1960s and 1970s, AACM members were among the most important and innovative in all of jazz, though the AACM's contemporary influence has waned some in recent years. In 1969, the AACM organized a music education program for inner-city youths. Many AACM members have recorded widely: in the early days on the Delmark Records Avant-Garde Jazz series and later the Black Saint/Soul Note and India Navigation labels, and to a lesser extent on the Arista Records and ECM labels. The musical endeavors of members of the AACM often mixed avant-garde jazz, classical, and world music.

They also strongly connected with St. Louis, Missouri's Black Artists' Group (BAG). The AACM has received support from the MacArthur Foundation and Columbia College. A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music by George E. Lewis has been published by the University of Chicago Press (May 2008). In 2015, a 50-year retrospective exhibition of art, music, and group-related artifacts, entitled "Free at First," was held at the DuSable Museum of African American History.

The AACM has been at the forefront of the avant-garde since its inception. Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago pushed the boundaries of jazz and challenged the avant-garde classical movement led by John Cage. Concerts were heavily improvised, and many AACM members created scores that blended music, geometry, painting, and ciphers to be interpreted by the performers live. The AACM was part of an artistic movement on the South Side of Chicago that included AFRICobra (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists) and other collectives.

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