Craig Harris Credit: Ron Scott

Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM) founded in 1965 (by pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, pianist Jodie Christian, drummer Steve McCall, and composer Phil Cohranis) is the most adventurous organization of musicians on the planet. Their music is called avant-garde which is cool, everything must be categorized for American consumption but mostly it is music of independent thought, an organic response to life’s experiences still fighting to be free.  

On Oct. 15, take a journey with the orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble, as conductor Peter Kotik performs the music of the world renowned AACM New York City Chapter, Inc. Composers: Dr. Muhal Richard Abrams, Thurman Barker, Adegoke Steve Colson, Leonard E. Jones, George E. Lewis, Amina Claudine Myers, and Henry Threadgill with special guest 2022 NYSCA Composers Commission recipient master percussionist Thurman Barker at the DiMenna Center for classical music at 450 West 37th St. (between 9th and 10th Avenues),  7 p.m.-10 p.m.

Be ready for a most invigorating evening. Don’t be afraid, yes avant-garde goes beyond the perimeters of jazz, it is a diverse form of expression that encompasses the body of Black music with the African diaspora from the in and out of now and beyond.     

For tickets visit the website AACM-NewYork.com. Note to those attending: Must wear a mask and show proof of vaccination and ID to enter. 

FREE music every Wednesday (Oct. 5-May 31, 2023) at the Interchurch Center at 61 Claremont Avenue (120th Street-119th Street). No reservations required just show up and enjoy the music. The weekly programs range from string quartets to woodwind ensembles to jazz, vocal soloists to choirs and emerging artists to established professionals. The programs last one-half hour (12:05 p.m.-12:35 p.m.). After the music lunch can be purchased on the lower level.  

Upcoming concerts will include Oct. 19 City Winds Trio (Flute, Oboe, & Bassoon), Oct. 26 the baritone Russell Saint John. For a complete schedule visit the website theinterchurchcenter.org. This program is a co-partnership with Jazzmobile.

On Oct. 16 (3 p.m.), community activist and jazz warrior trombonist and composer Craig Harris is returning to Harlem’s historical Mt. Olivet Baptist Church (201 Lenox Ave.) with the return of BREATHE. A free concert comprised of over 20 musicians with “a powerful love-filled sonic statement” in response to the long-term and current injustices inflicted upon African American people. BREATHE—conceived by Harris who is known as a “sonic shaman,” is a reminder for the community to remain resilient in fighting for justice. It is a statement that echoes everyday “BREATHE beyond bondage, beyond brutality, beyond bigotry!”

BREATHE premiered in Harlem on Oct. 16, 2016, with an ensemble of nearly 50 musicians. In January 2017, Harris presented BREATHE at the 13th annual Winter JazzFest in New York City and later that year BREATHE was performed at the Outreach Festival in Schwaz, Austria. Most recently, BREATHE was performed at Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 2021 and at the River to River Festival in Manhattan in 2022. Harris gives insight into the history of the work, “When Ferguson happened and Michael Brown was killed—if Amiri Baraka was alive I would have gotten that call. If my friend, Sekou Sundiata was here, I would have gotten that call. What are WE going to do? I had thought for a long time about what to do, then I saw Eric Garner on the ground saying, “I can’t breathe” and it hit me AHA! The whole concept of playing brass and woodwind instruments is that you must breathe; it’s essential. The breath is essential to everything. BREATHE is about the ancient contemporary sonic offerings we play, which will inspire one to only accept social justice…past, present, and future.”

Craig is a 2022 NAACP Image Award nominee for his co-composition of the score for “Judas and the Black Messiah” (the Oscar-winning film). His newly released CD, “Managing the Mask,” is available on Bandcamp and all digital music platforms. This latest release is another example of Harris’ music that grabs the soul. All 13 tracks are filled with, as Harris says, “righteous music, great Black music/ yes the world can really use it.” The CD opens with those song lyrics titled “Deep Thought” as Harris lends his vocals to this funky “real feeling music.”  

This ensemble of big deal brass and percussion sections boasts an all-star cast with too many to mention here, some playing multiple instruments. “Take the time, to be kind/help someone in a bind” sings Harris on this midtempo arrangement. “Wildseed” is an integration of flowing trumpets, flutes, bass clarinet swinging throughout with Harris’ trombone doing damage in and out of spaces. “Song for a Friend” and “Harlem Village” and two fiery ballads. The final tune “The Mask” is a somber romping swinger with trumpet flying high over keyboards and drums as Harris comes in over drums and hittin’ cymbals. The album is an assortment of inventive arrangements and assorted musical ingredients that add to colorful textures and tones that combine like a powerful rainbow. “We managed the mask because we were committed in unity to using music to deal with the virus,” said Harris in his liner notes. The trombonist is a liberated progressor whose musical journeys consistently takes unexpected turns. 

The award-winning novelist, playwright, and poet Ishmael Reed’s works regardless of written pages or stage performance reflect the creative aggressiveness of a Cecil Taylor solo.

Reed’s latest play, “The Conductor,” demonstrates that Blacks and whites are not the only racial groups contributing to the racial divide. The two-act play will be performed in four live-streamed virtual readings Oct. 13-15 at 8 p.m., and on Oct. 16 a matinee at 3 p.m. It is hosted by the Theater for the New City (155 First Ave., lower eastside). 

Cast for “The Conductor” readings include Emil Guillermo, Imran Javaid, Tennessee Reed, Laura Robards, Monisha Shiva, Brian Simmons, and Kenya Wilson. The play is directed by Carla Blank, who also directed and choreographed Reed’s play, “The Slave Who Loved Caviar” (December 2021-January 2022). She co-edited the anthology “Bigotry On Broadway” with Reed (Baraka Books, 2021).

“The Conductor” is based upon the recall of three school board members accused of instituting a lottery system that would lead to a more diverse student body at one of San Francisco’s elite high schools. An Anglo-Indian named Shashi Parmar is considered a hero for his leadership of the recall. It is then revealed that he might be working for a firebrand Indian prime minister who is anti-American. 

The San Francisco recall election pitted Asians against Asians, Blacks, and Latinos, a divide and conquer event manipulated by billionaires and enforced by those who doxxed the three school board members with threats to them and members of their families. 

For those on the East Coast who may not be aware, the recall actually did happen in San Francisco. “The Conductor” is Reed’s satirical production of the situation that is totally not in step with the general media. No, Reed is our media instigator, our writer producer, radio announcer, TV reporter, who tells the painful truth, the real deal, the sho’ nuff. For tickets call 212-254-1109; tickets are $18.

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