Malachi Favors: Bassist with Art Ensemble of Chicago


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Malachi Favors (Maghostus), bass
Born: August 22, 1927 in Chicago, IL
Died: February 2, 2004

One of the most respectably talented bassists in free jazz, Favors is renowned mostly for his membership in the Art Ensemble of Chicago for nearly forty years. A powerful swinger and excellent soloist, Favors tended to subsume himself beneath his bandmates, occasionally writing or stepping to the fore.

Favors took up the bass at fifteen and studied with Wilbur Ware and Paul Chambers as a young man. His first recording was made with tenorman Paul Bascomb in 1953. As a member of pianist Andrew Hill's trio with drummer James Slaughter, Favors recorded his first full album, So In Love (1956, Warwick). Favors further explored bebop with Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard before joining Muhal Richard Abrams' Experimental Band. There he met Roscoe Mitchell, and the two men began investigating the free jazz and hard bop that was coming out of New York City. In 1965 Mitchell developed his Art Ensemble, which became their principal gig for most of the next three decades. The band eventually became a quintet with Mitchell Favors, trumpeter Lester Bowie, saxophonist Joseph Jarman, and drummer Don Moye. Favors and Moye regularly donned tribal facepaint and African garb for the Art Ensemble's performances, enhancing the group's aura as a sort of black history repertory. Favors assumed the additional name “Maghostus" as another nod to his heritage, as did Moye with “Famoudou".

Favors recorded with most of the Art Ensemble's members in contexts outside of that band. His own solo bass recording, The Natural and the Spiritual (1977), was issued on the group's AECO imprint. Favors recorded in duo with Muhal Richard Abrams (Sightsong, 1975, Black Saint) and fellow bassist Tatsu Aoki (2x4, 1998, Southport), and worked with Charles Brackeen, Sunny Murray, Dewey Redman, Archie Shepp, Dennis Gonzalez, Yosuke Yamashita, and Alan Silva, among others. In recent years he was a member of Bright Moments, Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio, and Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet. Favors died of stomach cancer, which he had kept concealed from his musical friends.

~ Todd S. Jenkins

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