Muhal Richard Abrams

2012 Living Legacy Awardee

Color photo of Muhal Richard Abrams.

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Image: Muhal Richard Abrams. Credit: Paul van Riel.

Muhal Richard Abrams is a co-founder of The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), founder of The AACM School of Music, and President of The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, New York City Chapter.

Except for a brief period at Chicago Musical College and Governors State University in Chicago, Illinois where he studied electronic music, Mr. Abrams is predominately a self-taught musician who, as a result of many years of observation, analysis, and practice as a performing musician, has developed a highly respected command of a variety of musical styles both as a pianist and composer. The versatile Mr. Abrams and members of The AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) are responsible for some of the most original new music approaches of the last four decades.

Mr. Abrams’ compositions include String Quartet #2 performed by The Kronos String Quartet at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York City (1985); Piano Duet #1 performed by Ursula Oppens and Frederic Rzewski for Music at the Crossroads (1986); Saturation Blue performed by The Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra Chamber Ensemble (1986); Folk Tales 88 performed by The Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra (1988); Transversion I OP. 6 performed by The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1991), What A Man (dedicated to the Late Mayor of Chicago Harold Washington), performed by the Black Repertory Ensemble: Impressions 1 Performed by the SEM Ensemble (1997), 2000 Plus The Twelfth Step performed by the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band (1999); Tomorrow’s Song, As Yesterday Sings Today performed by the American Composers Orchestra (2000) and Mergertone performed by the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra, in Ostrava, Czech Republic (2009).

In addition to teaching privately, Mr. Abrams has taught composition and improvisation classes at the Banff Center in Canada, Columbia University in New York City, Syracuse University, the New England Conservatory in Boston, the BMI composers workshop in New York City, and the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland.

A member of Downbeat magazines’ Jazz Hall of Fame, Mr. Abrams is the recipient of many awards and accolades, including the inaugural grand international jazz award, “The JazzPar Prize” awarded by the Danish Jazz Center in 1990. Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago declared April 11, 1999 as Muhal Richard Abrams Day. Mr. Abrams was named a USA Prudential Fellow by United States Artists, and a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2010. In May 2012, Mr. Abrams received the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa, from Columbia University in New York.

Muhal Richard Abrams (1930-2017)

*Bio from Award presentation.