The Prize Winner 1990

Muhal Richard Abrams | Photo |

American pianist, clarinetist, cellist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, administrator and organizer. Born Chicago September 19, 1930.

   Muhal Richard Abrams was honored in terms of his general contribution to music. The International Prize Committee singled out the diversity and accessibility of Abrams' work, its striking originality, and the composer's equal devotion to craftsmanship and the pleasure principle. The Panel found that Abrams' art qualifies for very high attention the world over. Thus, The JAZZPAR Prize 1990 was given to an artist whose life and work satisfy the criteria laid down for the award.
   To the hard core, Abrams is a real jazz guru, a musicians' musician, and a moral force. For the past 20 years, no other bandleader, no matter how well established, has introduced more talented young players than Abrams. Strongly rooted in the jazz tradition, Abrams is a composer and performer who draws on the entire history of his people's music. But he is also inspired by other genres. Through tradition, he illuminates the path to the future. His many records embrace an unusually wide spectrum from ragtime and basic blues to free music. After music studies in Chicago, Abrams began working professionally in 1948. Up to the early 1970s, he was playing, composing, arranging, teaching, etc. in his hometown. He worked as a pianist, often accompanying visiting and prominent bop soloists, but also took the initiative to establish experimental groups. Abrams was founder and first president of The Association for The Advancement of Creative Musicians, a co-operative setting up concerts and festivals, a jazz school, etc. Thus stimulating a hitherto weak and unorganized scene.
   Through the many musicians of statue who came out of AACM, Abrams has been a major influence on the international jazz avant-garde. He excerpted a profound influence on such important performers as Lester Bowie, Anthony Braxton, Joseph Jarman and George Lewis. Then in the mid 70s, Abrams moved to New York -studying, playing and composing. He has also toured internationally, leading combos as well as larger groups.
   During the same period, the Italian label Black Saint has released ten albums under Abrams' name, the latest one, "The Hearinga Suite", presenting him as a leader of an American studio big band.
   At the JAZZPAR Concerts a program of Abrams' compositions and arrangements - several written for the occasion - was performed with Denmark's Radio Big Band (now called The Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra)

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