A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music

By George E. Lewis | Go to book overview

3
THE DEVELOPMENT OF
THE EXPERIMENTAL BAND

Alternative Pedagogies of Experimental Music

For many musicians, the space race began not in 1957 with the Soviet Union's launch of the satellite Sputnik, but in 1946, when the pianist Herman Blount came up on the train from Birmingham to Bronzeville. Soon after his arrival, Sonny (as he was called) landed a job with Fletcher Henderson's orchestra at the Club De Lisa on 55th and State, a gig that he held down until mid-1947, when the Red Saunders Band succeeded Henderson. Sonny stayed on, rehearsing the band and refashioning Saunders's backup arrangements for singers like Laverne Baker, Dakota Staton, Joe Williams, and Sarah Vaughan. Blount founded his own band in 1950, with people like saxophonists Harold Ousley, Von Freeman, Earl Ezell (later Ahmad Salaheldeen), and John Jenkins, bassist Wilbur Ware, and drummer Vernel Fournier.

Sometime in 1952, Blount announced that the Creator had ordered him to change his name. He went downtown to the Circuit Court of Cook County and legally became “Le Sony'r Ra.” In addition, he registered a business under the name of “Sun Ra.”1 Most musicians in Chicago, however, still knew him as Sonny, one of the qualified musicians of the South Side's musical community. As Jodie Christian remembers,

-55-

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A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface - The AACM and American Experimentalism ix
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction - An AACM Book: Origins, Antecedents, Objectives, Methods xxiii
  • Chapter Summaries xxxv
  • 1: Foundations and Prehistory 1
  • 2: New Music, New York 29
  • 3: The Development of the Experimental Band 55
  • 4: Founding the Collective 85
  • 5: First Fruits 115
  • 6: The AACM Takes Off 163
  • 7: Americans in Paris 215
  • 8: The AACM's Next Wave 259
  • 9: The AACM in New York 325
  • 10: The New Regime in Chicago 389
  • 11: Into the Third Decade 440
  • 12: Transition and Reflections 481
  • Afterword 497
  • Appendix A - Interviews Conducted by the Author 515
  • Appendix B - Selected AACM Recordings 519
  • Notes 525
  • Bibliography 601
  • Index 637
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