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Chicago's Robust Role In America's Music Industry Part 2

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Photo courtesy of AACM


Part 1 established the facts that make Chicago a music powerhouse not only in Chicago but in the world. Celebrating Black Music Month and 50 years of Hip Hop this year we would be remiss if we failed to look at Chicago’s role and contribution in the world. We ended with House Music which began in Chicago setting the record straight cancelling any recent rumors, some as far-fetched as ‘Beyonce started House music.” How can that even be when she wasn’t even born was she?
Let the record show that House Music began In Chicago in 1977, Knuckles began his DJ residency at the Warehouse, the house that inspired and named Knuckles' brewing new genre.  Beyonce was born September 8, 1981.

What we do know is that according to L’Officiel Magazine “With the new releases of Drake’s seventh studio album Honestly, Nevermind and Beyoncé’s single "Break My Soul," house music seems to be the trending sound of the summer. Join L’OFFICIEL as we investigate the history of the disco-inspired genre.”
So, let’s move on. The "Chicago style" of jazz which originated from southern musicians moving North after 1917, bringing with them the New Orleans "Dixieland" or sometimes called "hot jazz" styles. This comes as no surprise as we note that the Great Migration, by the way, instigated by one Black Man, Robert Sengstacke Abbott, publisher of the iconic Chicago Defender and inspired millions of Blacks to exit the oppressed South and seek a life of greater freedom and opportunity in the north. They did and with them came the art of music and more.

King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton emerged as stars of the Chicago jazz scene. King Oliver in particular brought Louis Armstrong to Chicago in 1922 while he was performing at the Dreamland Café with his "Creole Jazz Band. ." More importantly, white musicians, or "alligators", attended Oliver's performances to learn how to play jazz. Between the years 1925 to 1928,  Louis Armstrong's recordings with his Chicago-based Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five and Hot Seven Bands were released  and conjured great demand from both Black and white audiences. Louis Armstrong’s recordings marked the transition of original New Orleans jazz to a more sophisticated type of American improvised music with more emphasis on solo choruses instead of just little solo breaks. His style of playing was mimicked by white musicians who favored meters of 2 instead of 4. The emphasis on solos, faster tempos, string bass and guitar (replacing the traditional New Orleans tuba and banjo) and saxophones also distinguish Chicago-style playing from New Orleans style.  Chicago musicians progressed to playing 4 beat measures and laid the foundation for the swing era. So, the Lindy Hop was originally danced to 4 beat Chicago style jazz and went on to become one of the iconic features of the swing era made headway because the white musicians took a liking to it. Chicago gangsters hired specific musicians like Earl Hines, and Louis Armstrong to play for their private events.  Original Chicago-style pianist Art Hodes presented the classic jazz style in a TV show series.

One of the most important organizations in the and Modern Chicago jazz era from the mid 1960s to the present day is the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) which took a fresh approach to this music called Jazz. Like many rebellious Black jazz artists, they did not like being pigeonholed into a music category that stifled their expression. White music critics listen define the music based on the consistent  beat measures, instrumentation and so on. The AACM refused and described what they were creating as "Great Black Music: Ancient to the Future."  

The organization was founded in 1961 by pianist/composer  Muhal Richard Abrams (b. 1930) bassist Donald "Rafael" Garrett (1932–1989) and Phil Cohran who was very instrumental in the establishment of the AACM.  He been a member of Sun Ra's band as a trumpeter from the '50s until Ra left Chicago in 1961).  The organization has gone onto  become one of the dominant influences in what is described  by white critics as avant garde jazz.  As previously stated, the organization defines their music as Great Black Music.  Many respected trailblazing Chicago artists emerged from this organization, such as Pulitzer prize winning spawned Henry Threadgill Anthony Braxton, Leo Smith, The Art Ensemble of Chicago (( Lester Bowie, Famoudou Don Moye, Joseph Jarmen, Malachi Favors Amina Claudine Meyers, Pete Cosey, George Lewis and Kahil EL’ Zabar’s Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Steve Adegoke, Dee Alexander and countless others.

The musicians that emerged were engaged in creating music, composing their own and presenting it as the felt and envisioned it. They did not restrict themselves to play within the lines or playing standards. From the greats before them they embraced the heart of jazz, Bebop and kept it liquid. Today their music is fluid and continues to grow marrying  not just African rhythms, funk, and jazz improvisation, but African instruments like the thumb piano or Sansa,  shekere, the kora kora and  Indian instruments as well as instruments they make joined with the traditional European instrumentation creating unique sounds of harmonics coupled with groove and tempos shifting and turning where never expected.  The AACM developed a mayor following of University of Chicago students , critics and in-the know Blacks. Groups like Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Ethnic Heritage were popular in Europe and the attention received prompted an exodus of Chicago AACM members to move to New York in the late 70’s, leaving behind the younger members whose stars were still growing. One of Chicago's other brothers, Kurt Elling was influence greatly by AACM's vocalist Luba Rashick, is popular and in demand.

Since the AACM’s beginning members of the organization have performed their expression of "Great Black Music" throughout the world shaking it up.
The staple for Chicago’s jazz scene is the annual Chicago Jazz Festival, which has its origins in the 1970s. Festival performers have included Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Pharoah Sanders, Ornette Coleman, Benny Carter, Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter, Lionel Hampton,  Jimmy Dawkins, Von Freeman, Slide Hampton, Sarah Vaughn, Archie Shepp, Eddie Harris and Roy Haynes etc. Younger artists like Corey Wilkes, Isaiah Collier, Justin Dillard are advancing Chicago’s jazz scene keeping it fluid.

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