AACM Great Black Music Festival

Kurt Gottschalk By

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There's something of a generation gap in the group, he explained, with different understandings about how to use the Internet and how and where to book performances and a general lack of agreement on the relevance of being entirely self-reliant in a very different world than that of 1965.

"A lot of older members are still fixed to that older idea and if you can't let go of that older idea, it can't grow," he said.

Much could be pulled from (or projected onto) their appearance at and placement within the festival. Following two weekends by members of the first generation, these perhaps third wave players closing the festival clearly stated a positive coda that the reigns are not being left to fall slack. At the same time, however, it would be hard to call the duo an AACM band. Parker has a long tenure with former co-chair Ernest Dawkins (next year will mark his 20th anniversary with Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble) but has never been a formal member of the organization. And Reed, although a former executive with the organization, doesn't present himself as wholly a part of it as such past members as Lester Bowie or Mwata Bowden or even Dawkins have. Which is perhaps a sign of the times.

The organization was born at a time of liberation struggle and group and party identity, when "membership card" didn't mean American Express. The current day is more about the individual than the coalition. It may be that it's a model that's outmoded: Artists can book their tours and record and distribute their music on their laptops now. But it might be just as true that the fact that these musicians, young and old, have a name recognition to bank on, that the idea of "Great Black Music" as a reference point has a place within the jazz conversation, and that an organization in Pennsylvania devotes five nights and considerable energy and resources to celebrating the AACM achievement, all are a measure of 45 years of success.


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