Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians

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Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians
PredecessorExperimental Band
FormationMay 1965 (1965-05)
FounderMuhal Richard Abrams, Jodie Christian, Steve McCall, Phil Cohran
TypeNon-profit organization
PurposeSupport and encourage jazz performers, composers and educators
  • Chicago, Illinois
Official language
Key people
Henry Threadgill, Anthony Braxton, Jack DeJohnette
AffiliationsBlack Artists' Group
Endowment MacArthur Foundation

The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1965 in Chicago by pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, pianist Jodie Christian, drummer Steve McCall, and composer Phil Cohran. [1] 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." [2]



By the 1960s, jazz music was losing ground to rock music, and the founders of the AACM felt that a proactive group of musicians would add creativity and outlet for new music. [3] The AACM was formed in May 1965 by a group of musicians centered on pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, who had organized an Experimental Band since 1962. [4] The musicians were generally steadfast in their commitment to their music, despite a lack of performance venues and sometimes indifferent audiences. From 1969 the AACM organised a music education program for inner-city youths. [5] 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. Many AACM members have recorded widely: in the early days on the Delmark Records Avant Garde Jazz series and later on the Black Saint/Soul Note and India Navigation labels, and to a lesser extent on the Arista Records and ECM labels. [6]

The musical endeavors of members of the AACM often include an adventurous mixing of avant-garde jazz, classical, and world music. The AACM also ran a school, The AACM School of Music, with classes in all areas taught by members of the AACM. The AACM also had a strong relationship with an influential sister organization, the Black Artists' Group (BAG) of St. Louis, Missouri. The AACM has received aid from the MacArthur Foundation and has a strong relationship with 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). [7]

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. [3]


The AACM has been on the forefront of the avant-garde since its inception in 1965. 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. [8]


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  1. Cook, Richard (2005). Richard Cook's Jazz Encyclopedia. London: Penguin Books. p. 23. ISBN   0-141-00646-3.
  2. Blumenfeld, Larry (April 21, 2015). "'Free at First: The Audacious Journey of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians' Review". Wall Street Journal.
  3. 1 2 Reich, Howard (January 27, 2015). "50th anniversary of AACM celebrated at DuSable Museum". Chicago Tribune.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music . Vol. 1 (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 25. ISBN   0-85112-939-0.
  5. Litweiler, John (1984). The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958. Da Capo. ISBN   0-306-80377-1.
  6. "Delmark History". Archived from the original on 2007-04-09. Retrieved 2006-10-31.
  7. 1 2 Chinen, Nate (May 2, 2008). "Four Decades of Music That Redefined Free". The New York Times . Retrieved June 7, 2012.
  8. Lewis, George E.. "Improvised Music After 1950: Afrological and Eurological Perspectives".Black Music Research Journal 22 (2002): 215–246
  9. 1 2 Kelsey, Chris. "The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  10. "Avreeayl Ra". All About Jazz . Retrieved 2020-11-01.
  11. Bio at Mike Reed website.

Further reading