A Power Brassier Than Yourself

By editor • Jul 9th, 2008 • Category: news

Speaking of real jazz, everybody interested in how a group of  black-rebel musical anarchists might manage to collectively stick to the point for four decades needs to read George Lewis’ A Power Stronger Than Itself, The AACM And American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press) .For those unaware or just plain ign’ant the Association For the Advancement of Creative Musicians is the Chicago based organization from whence came such rugged musical individualists as Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Pete Cosey,Henry Threadgill, Nicole Mitchell and Matana Roberts. Author Lewis isn’t just an advocate, he’s also an equally visionary member in his own right– being not only something akin to the Jimi Hendrix of the trombone, but, as well,  the designer of an improvising software program( Voyager). You dont need to be so polymath to read his book –its an existential page turner. Kinda like an engrossing Russian family novel about  working-class African American moms and dads in 50s and 60s Chicago who made sure their dreamy ghetto-born kids could be anything they wanted to be. Not being ones to squander such efforts on their behalf the members of the AACM went on to become models for how that wooly and fragile thing known as Black Genius can be made ridicolously self-reliant and learn how to play avant-reindeer games well with others. Lewis doesnt skim on the race and gender politics and basic adminsitration fluckups the organization blundered through along the way. This unabashed handling of the truth gives the book a bracing critical honesty  rare to ‘movement histories’ written from the inside.

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