Listening to the Women of Chicago's AACM

The Voices Heard! ensemble performing at the Jazz Institute of Chicago’s Made in Chicago Festival in Poznan, Poland: (l-r.) Ann Ward, Coco Elysses, Nicole Mitchell, Dee Alexander, Tomeka Reid, Renee Baker/ photo: Lauren Deutsch

I can’t think of a better way for the Jazz Institute of Chicago to wrap up a year of programming highlighting the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) than with a free concert on Dec. 11 by the Voices Heard! ensemble. The event gathers women who have made significant contributions to the AACM and whose musicianship has been marked by the AACM’s influence: vocalist Dee Alexander, pianist and singer Ann Ward, flutist Nicole Mitchell, cellist Tomeka Reid, violinist Renee Baker, and percussionist, singer and songwriter Coco Elysses.
The promotional headline reads:
Empowering Women, Spanning Generations: The Women of the AACM Unite!
It celebrates an aspect of AACM’s legacy that deserves attention beyond Chicago.
Earlier this year, while researching a Wall Street Journal piece celebrating the AACM anniversary, I spoke at length with Mitchell, a perennial poll-topper as flutist and a real visionary as a composer and the leader of several groups (her Black Earth Ensemble performs at the Chicago event). Currently also Professor of Music at the University of California, Irvine, Mitchell arrived in Chicago in 1990, where she began playing music on the streets. She was drawn to the AACM, eventually serving as its first female president, from 2009-2011.
Here are some excerpts from our conversation: Continue reading “Listening to the Women of Chicago's AACM”