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Live Jazz at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Embodies ‘The Freedom Principle' Exhibit

By Louise Burton l.burton@classicalite.com on Aug 02, 2015 05:54 PM EDT

In conjunction with the exhibit The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is presenting an impressive lineup of jazz performances, premieres and multimedia events.

The Freedom Principle is a large-scale group exhibition that links the avant-garde jazz and experimental music of the late 1960s--particularly within the African-American arts scene on the South Side of Chicago--and its continuing influence on contemporary art and culture today.

The exhibition also features works by artists belonging to the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), a collective of Chicago musicians who expanded the boundaries of jazz.

MCA Curator Naomi Beckwith said: "This year marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the AACM. So part of the reason that we are doing this exhibition right now at the MCA, is because its moment is here for really what was a touchstone of cultural activity on the South Side of Chicago. And so what we wanted to do to celebrate that was create an exhibition that, of course, started with the AACM... but also talk about the context in which all of this happened."

So it is perhaps appropriate that the MCA should transform itself into a jazz presenting venue for the duration of the exhibit, which runs until November 22. Outdoor jazz on the terrace in a festival-like atmosphere, more formal concerts in the Edlis Neeson Theater, and smaller-scale performances in the lobby combine to create a hybrid jazz and art festival that invites patrons to explore the connections between music and visual art.

Tuesdays on the Terrace

Every Tuesday evening in the summer, the MCA turns into a mini jazz festival with free outdoor performances on the terrace, complete with buffet and outdoor grill. The Ari Brown Quintet (August 4), Douglas R. Ewart (August 11) and the Jason Stein Quartet (August 18) are just a few of the artists scheduled to perform. A complete lineup is available here.

Roscoe Mitchell: Trios

Edlis Neeson Theater, September 27 at 3:00 and 7:30 pm

 A participant in the AACM and a founding member of the Art Ensemble Chicago, Roscoe Mitchell is a composer and multi-instrumentalist. Mitchell presents four jazz trios, each featuring himself and two other musicians. The two concerts are different, with two trios being presented at the 3:00 p.m. concert and two trios being presented at 7:30 p.m.

 Afterword: The AACM (as) Opera

 Edlis Neeson Theater, October 16 and 17

Afterword is an experimental opera that imagines the future and legacy of the AACM, the African-American music collective founded in Chicago in 1965. George Lewis, professor of music at Columbia University and member of the AACM since 1971, composed the music based on a libretto drawn from his 2008 book about the experimental music collective.

Lewis has said "Afterword functions not as a history of the collective, but as a 'Bildungsoper'--a coming-of-age opera of ideas, positionality, and testament. The libretto is drawn from my 2008 book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music, a chronicle showing how artists and musicians assumed central roles in forging new models of black identity and social activism. What I call the AACM's "unstable polyphony" of voices, at once independent and in harmony in imagining the future of music, is the inspiration for Afterword..."

 Lewis will join forces with media/theater artist Catherine Sullivan and director Sean Griffin to present this multimedia work that combines chamber opera with real-time improvisation. The score will be realized by four vocalists, reedist Douglas Ewart and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE).

 William Pope.L: Cage Unrequited

 November 21, 3:00 p.m. through November 22, 4:00 p.m.

Cage Unrequited is a 25-hour marathon reading of experimental composer John Cage's influential book Silence: Lectures and Writings (1961) organized by visual artist William Pope.L. The performance is a contemporary take on the texts through the voices and attitudes of a diverse Chicago community of over 100 invited readers.

The Freedom Principle: Activations and Performances

As part of The Freedom Principle, periodic small-scale concerts are performed in the museum's 4th-floor lobby, activating an installation created by John Preus. Concerts feature local musicians, artists, and poets responding to the themes of improvisation, collaboration, and experimentation. The schedule includes the Chicago Human Rhythm Project (August 22), John Preus (September 12) and Mikel Patrick Avery (September 26). A full schedule of performers is available here.

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TagsJazz, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, MCA, the freedom principle exhibit, Naomi Beckwith, Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, AACM, Wadsworth Jarrell, The Freedom Principle, Ari Brown Quintet

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