2019/2020 ACF connect selected composers Elizabeth A. Baker, Adegoke Steve Colson, Rudresh Mahanthappa

ACF to Award Composers Commissions to Have World Premieres Performed by the Great Black Music Ensemble, Part of AACM’s 55th Anniversary Season

The American Composers Forum (ACF) and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) today announce the three composers selected as participants for the third annual ACF | connect program, in partnership with the AACM’s Great Black Music Ensemble –unparalleled contributors to the modern music scene and an inspirational leader in the Chicago community since 1965. The 2019/2020 cohort of ACF | connect composers includes Elizabeth A. Baker (Saint Petersburg, FL), Adegoke Steve Colson (Montclair, NJ), and Rudresh Mahanthappa (Montclair, NJ).

The three selected artists, whose musical voices represent the diverse landscape of music being created today, were chosen out of 106 applicants from across the country. Each composer will receive a $7,500 commission to create a piece for the Great Black Music Ensemble, scored for thirteen musicians plus string ensemble. Baker, Colson, and Mahanthappa will participate in an introductory residency September 4-7, 2019 with the Great Black Music Ensemble and develop their original works over a 13-month period. The culminating premieres will take place in Chicago in Fall 2020 as part of the AACM’s 55th anniversary season. Housing, domestic transportation, and meals for the duration of the workshop, rehearsal, and performance process will be provided. 

“We are grateful for all of the musicians that applied to the ACF | connect program; it was an excellent pool of applicants. We look forward to working with Elizabeth A. Baker, Adegoke Steve Colson, and Rudresh Mahanthappa.” said Ernest Dawkins, on behalf of the AACM Executive Committee. 

ACF President & CEO Vanessa Rose shared, “the process thus far with the AACM has already helped us reimagine what a collaboration with composers can be – working with AACM’s unique qualities and desire to stretch themselves artistically will be an extraordinary experience for the three selected composers. And for us too!”

For this and all its programs, the American Composers Forum encourages applicants from the full range of musical styles, and is committed to supporting a diverse pool of artists whose work demonstrates strong artistic voice. Accordingly, awards for our programs will represent, as far as possible, artists and projects that are diverse in style, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, and geography.

About Elizabeth A. Baker

Eschewing the collection of traditional titles that describe single elements of her body of work, Elizabeth A. Baker refers to herself as a “New Renaissance Artist” that embraces a constant stream of change and rebirth in practice, which expands into a variety of media, chiefly an exploration of how sonic and spatial worlds can be manipulated to personify a variety of philosophies and principles both tangible as well as intangible. Elizabeth has received recognition from press as well as scholars, for her conceptual compositions and commitment to inclusive programming. In addition to studies of her work, Elizabeth A. Baker has been awarded several fellowships, grants, and residencies, in addition to sponsorships from Schoenhut Piano Company and Source Audio LLC. As an experimental filmmaker, her work has been shown at festivals including Women of the Lens (United Kingdom), and the African Smartphone International Film Festival (Nigeria). As a solo recording artist, Elizabeth is represented by Aerocade Music, her first solo album on the California-based label Quadrivium released worldwide in May 2018 to rave reviews. She is founder of the Florida International Toy Piano Festival, The New Music Conflagration, Inc., author of three books, and the subject of a number of scholarly articles, thesis papers, and other academic research. In March 2018, Elizabeth A. Baker retired from nonprofit arts administration to focus on her international solo career, though she remains committed to the community through workshops and public speaking engagements.

About Adegoke Steve Colson

AAdegoke Steve Colson – pianist, composer, saxophonist, educator – performs as a soloist and leader of ensembles ranging from trios to orchestras. His work appears on labels including Columbia/Sony, Evidence, and Black Saint. His solo piano recording, Tones For , on the Colsons’ Silver Sphinx Label, received international praise including Jazz Times’ Editor’s Pick. Accolades for other Silver Sphinx recordings include The Untarnished Dream, voted in the top 10% of Village Voice International Jazz Critics Poll; and a Grammy® nomination for Hope for Love. Born in Newark and raised in East Orange, NJ, Colson started writing music during his high school years. He earned his degree from Northwestern University School of Music and joined the influential musicians collective, the Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), in 1972.

Colson’s jazz ensembles have included acclaimed artists such as David Murray, Henry Threadgill, Anthony Davis, Rachelle Farrell, Joseph Jaman, Tyshawn Sorey, Oliver Lake, and many others. He has collaborated with visual artists Willie Cole and Don Miller, literary masters Amiri Baraka and Richard Wesley, and legendary dancer Carmen de Lavallade. On-screen performances include a PBS special for which he orchestrated and conducted the works of stride master Willie “The Lion” Smith; conducting his Jazz Orchestra for Mezzo Channel in Europe; his role as “the piano player” in Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese’s HBO’s series, Vinyl ; and the recent documentary, The Takeover – The Revolution of the Black Experience at Northwestern University , on the 50th Anniversary of the 1968 Takeover of Northwestern’s Bursar’s Office. Colson was one of strategists for what is called the most successful takeover of a major American University.

Colson was one of 23 educators selected from around the country by the National Endowment of the Arts to pilot the concept of Artist Residencies in the 1980s. He is currently artist in residence in Jazz Studies at Cicely L. Tyson School of Performing & Fine Arts, teaches at Bloomfield College, and lectures internationally. In late 2018 he was inducted into The East Orange Hall of Fame, joining other distinguished local talents Althea Gibson, Dionne Warwick, Naughty by Nature, John Amos, and Whitney Houston.

About Rudresh Mahanthappa

Hailed by Pitchfork as “jaw-dropping… one of the finest saxophonists going,” alto saxophonist, composer, and educator Rudresh Mahanthappa is widely known as one of the premier voices in jazz of the 21st century. He has over a dozen albums to his credit, including the acclaimed Bird Calls (2015), which was hailed by PopMatters as “complex, rhythmically vital, free in spirit while still criss-crossed with mutating structures.” Mahanthappa has been named Alto Saxophonist of the Year by Downbeat Magazine seven times (2011-2013, 2015-2018), by Jazz Journalists’ Association five times (2009-2013), by JazzTimes Magazine three times (2015-2017), and was named The Village Voice’s Best Jazz Artist in 2015. He has also received the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, among other honors, and is currently the Anthony H. P. Lee ’79 Director of Jazz at Princeton University. 

Coming deeper into contact with the Carnatic music of his parents’ native southern India, Mahanthappa partnered in 2008 with fellow altoist Kadri Gopalnath and the Dakshina Ensemble for Kinsmen, garnering wide acclaim. In 2019, Mahanthappa will be debuting a new trio as well as co-leading a project celebrating the centenary of Charlie Parker. He has also worked with Jack DeJohnette, Mark Dresser, Danilo Pérez, Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, the collaborative trios MSG and Mauger, the co-led quintet Dual Identity with fellow altoist Steve Lehman, and another co-led quintet with fellow altoist and Chicago stalwart Bunky Green (Apex). He was also commissioned by the PRISM Saxophone Quartet to compose I Will Not Apologize for My Tone Tonight, which can be heard on the quartet’s 2015 double-disc release Heritage/Evolution, Volume 1.

About ACF | connect

Launched in 2017, ACF | connect provides opportunities for composers to build relationships with leading American ensembles to create new work, reach new audiences, and engage with new communities. The inaugural group was the celebrated Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble (PNME) and the second cycle has featured Roomful of Teeth, who performed premieres by Mingjia Chen (Ontario, Canada), Mary Kouyoumdjian (Brooklyn, New York), and Peter S. Shin (Kansas City, Missouri) on August 23, 2019 at MASSMoCA. Through this program, composers are offered competitive commission fees, and have significant time to both work with performers and participate in learning/networking opportunities with industry professionals. Ensembles are able to connect to a broader composer community and invite applicants from a national call. Consistent with the mission of the American Composers Forum, the program supports meaningful, long-lasting connections between composers, performers, audiences, and the local community where the ensemble is based. The program intentionally supports a diversity of voices and music to advance creative musical expression as a core value of a global society. ACF | connect ensures a vibrant future for composers and their work by supporting their vision and creativity, and by pairing them with performers and audiences in traditional and innovative spaces and media. 

About the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM)

Internationally renowned for unparalleled contribution to modern music, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Inc. (AACM) has been an inspirational leader within the cultural community since 1965. A non-profit organization chartered by the State of Illinois, the AACM is a collective of musicians and composers dedicated to nurturing, performing, and recording serious, original music. This collective of dynamic and visionary artists formed the AACM to meet their emergent needs to expose and showcase their original compositions and to create an outlet for the development and performance of their music.

Since its inception, one mission of the AACM has been to provide an atmosphere conducive to the development of its member artists and to continue the AACM legacy of providing leadership and vision for the development of creative music. The AACM first coined the phrase Great Black Music to describe its unique direction in music. The AACM pays homage to the diverse styles of expression within the body of Black Music in the United States, Africa, and throughout the world. This experience extends from the ancient music of Africa to the music of the future.

The AACM may best be known for its leading-edge public concerts featuring some of the most accomplished, versatile and innovative musicians performing original creative music. The organization takes particular pride in developing new generations of talent through the free music training program conducted by members for city youth, the AACM School of Music. Another equally important aspect of AACM ‘s mission is the high moral standard members seek to provide in their capacities as performers, artists, teachers, and role models.

The AACM has continuously achieved international recognition for its contributions in modern music. AACM groups have performed in Moscow, Japan, Europe, Africa, and the United States. Members are regularly awarded grants and commissions to compose music for solo instrument, small ensemble and full orchestra. In 1990, AACM co-founder Muhal Richard Abrams was the recipient of the prestigious Jazzpar Award in Denmark to compose for the Danish Orchestra. AACM member Lester Bowie composed and performed the theme music for The Cosby Show seen on network television. In 1990, the City of Chicago saw fit to honor the AACM by dedicating an evening at the 1990 Chicago Jazz Festival to the music and members of the organization. AACM members Anthony Braxton and George Lewis were awarded Genius Grants from the MacArthur Foundation. AACM flutist Nicole Mitchell was recently awarded the prestigious Doris Duke Artists award. For further information, visit www.aacmchicago.org

About the Great Black Music Ensemble

The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Inc. (AACM), Great Black Music Ensemble (GBME) features some of Chicago’s most visionary artists of improvisation and creative music. An intergenerational ensemble ranging in size from three to thirty musicians, the GBME carries on the legacy of Chicago’s South Side creative music by expressing the excitement of new sounds and rhythms while invigorating the traditions of Black music including funk, reggae, bebop, swing and African and Caribbean styles.

The AACM Great Black Music Ensemble has been in residence at the Rebuild Foundation and performs at the Arts Bank every first Sunday for the last two years. The ensemble has also been in residence at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago for the past two years, and performs regularly at the Chicago Park District Night Out in the Parks (NOIP). In 2018, the Ensemble gave two separate performances in the Chicago Jazz Festival. In September 2018, the GBME gave a performance at Co-Prosperity Sphere as part of the Chicago Overground Worldwide FM broadcast.