Mwata at the MCA
Mwata Bowden, a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), brought his band, One Foot In, One Foot Out, to the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art for a Tuesdays on the Terrace performance. Bowden is not to be missed, particularly when he brings Ari Brown (tenor saxophone), Avreeayl Ra (drums), and Harrison Bankhead (bass), all AACM members, with him. Let's not forget Phil Q. on trumpet and Bowden's son, Khari B., who added poetry and rap to the mix.
At the outset Bowden told the audience that he wanted to bring to mind the neighborhood where he grew up. That would be 47th Street on Chicago's south side. Bowden talked about the legendary Regal Theatre and the street life in his neighborhood, but the music was far more evocative of the experience than mere words. I was particularly taken by a number entitled Stroll Down 47th Street. No photograph necessary to see the people strolling down the street.
The band also played a tribute to Anne Ward, another AACM member, who died last year. Co-written by Bowden and Bankhead, this number had an off-kilter propulsive line running through it, but the tone was rich and warm. I saw Ward performed shortly before she died: Mamma Anne certainly captured her spirit.
Toward the end, Khari B. rapped about Jim Crow, with Donald Trump making an appearance. "In the face of all forms of bondage, this is the soul's cry." I always enjoy Khari B. and his work.
Not surprisingly, the audience also heard Bowden recount his experiences with Walter Dyett, the legendary band director at DuSable High School who influenced dozens of well-known Chicago musicians. Dyett told his class that mind over matter was the key to success. After that story, Bowden and the crew performed I Am Still Thinking, But I Ain't Rich Yet, suggesting that the mind doesn't always prevail over matter.
When Bowden is leading the band, he usually breaks out the Australian Aboriginal bamboo instrument known as the didgeridoo. He claims that he can teach someone to play the instrument in two days. Mastery requires the student to learn circular breathing. Based on Khari B.'s reaction, it was clear that the father had spent sometime trying to teach the son the technique.
Overall, a splendid evening of music. I enjoyed the opportunity to speak with photographer Julius Burrell, who like the folks on stage, has quite a story to tell. Back in the Seventies, he traveled the world with the Commodores, the O'Jays, Earth Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson, and dozens of other performers. I would love to see some of his work from those days.
Tuesdays on the Terrace is a free event that starts at 5:30PM each Tuesday night during the summer. The museum sells food and drinks. It is a casual event that usually sees somewhere between 200 and 300 people turn out. Seating is available, but many patrons prefer to sit on the lawn, where the kids often are having a grand old time running around.
Khari B., The Poet
Mwata Bowden on Baritone Saxophone
Ari Brown on Tenor Saxophone
Avreeayl Ra, Who Performed with Sun Ra, Still Has It Going On
Phil Q. Performing With One Foot In, One Foot Out
Harrison Bankhead in a Reflective Mood
Avreeayl Ra on Drums--Leaning Back and Hitting Decisively
One of the Many Listeners
Ari Brown Smiles While Taking a Break
Mwata Bowden Plays the Clarinet
Khari B. Rises Above the Crowd