KR070: Muhal Richard Abrams – Celestial Birds


Format: 180gr LP incl 4c insert, DL card / download

Release date: february 21st 2020

The compilation “Celestial Birds” reveals and focuses on the widely unkown electronic compositions of the AACM founder and jazz pianist MUHAL RICHARD ABRAMS. #5 in the Perihel Series, curated by zeitkratzer director REINHOLD FRIEDL.

Anybody interested in jazz knows that Chicago has always been an impressive hot spot for new talents – and still is. One essential landmark in the history and development of jazz was the founding of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) in May 1965. This non-profit organization was a melting pot (and starting point) for artists like ANTHONY BRAXTON, ROSCOE MITCHELL, GEORGE LEWIS or LESTER BOWIE and his ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO but one of its actual founding members is known only to the deep connaisseurs: MUHAL RICHARD ABRAMS (1930 – 2017). The autodidact pianist and composer left music school and university, deciding to learn music by himself. From 1961 on, the EXPERIMENTAL BAND was his first ensemble, but it soon turned out that ABRAMS‘ interests went beyond jazz and that he was open to the avant-garde and new music and most of all: electronic music. Which led to a double problem: On the one hand, black musicians had almost no access to the rare electronic music studios located in and funded by universities or broadcasting corporations. On the other hand, there were strong reservations regarding electronic music in the black music community. In his important book “A Power Stranger Than Itself – The AACM and American Experimental Music” GEORGE LEWIS writes that “the use of electronics … proved controversial and widely misunderstood in a world of jazz in which acoustic instruments became conflated with musical, and eventually, cultural and even racial authenticity.” ABRAMS‘ response was to actually „hide“ his electronic pieces on the B-sides of his albums, and this compilation focuses on some of his best electronic experiments: the 22-minute long epic „The Bird Song“ from 1968 in its original version incl. the reverb that was removed on the later CD reissue on DELMARK, the synthesizer compositions „Conversations With The Three Of Me” (1989) and “Think All, Focus One” 1995) plus “ Spihumonesty” (1980) with a 2nd synthesizer played by GEORGE LEWIS and YOUSEF YANCEY on theremin.
“Celestial Birds” casts a new light on the underrated experimenter MUHAL RICHARD
ABRAMS, his innovative approach to composition and pieces that lay dormant for way too

Tracklist + musicians

A. The Bird Song (22:39)
Alto saxophone – Anthony Braxton
Bass – Leonard Jones
Clarinet, Piano – Muhal Richard Abrams
Drums – Thurman Barker
Tenor saxophone – Maurice McIntyre
Violin – Leroy Jenkins
Vocals – David Moore
taken from “Levels And Degrees Of Light” (1968)

B1. Conversations With The Three Of Me (5:46)
Synthesizer, piano – Muhal Richard Abrams
taken from “The Hearinga Suite” (1989)

B2.Think All, Focus One (5:36)
Synthesizer – Muhal Richard Abrams
taken from “Think All, Focus One” (1995)

B3.Spihumonesty (7:54)
Alto saxophone, flute – Roscoe Mitchell
Bass – Leonard Jones
Piano, electric piano, organ – Amina Claudine Myers
Piano, synthesizer – Muhal Richard Abrams
Theremin – Yousef Yancey
Trombone, sousaphone, synthesizer – George Lewis
Voice – Jay Clayton
taken from “Spihumonesty” (1980)