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November 19, 1982 - Image 20

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1982-11-19
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Art Ensemble of Chicago
Michigan Union Ballroom
8 p.m., 10 p.m. Friday, November 19

By Mike Belford
IT HAS BEEN said that no group
embodies the collective spirit more
positively than the Art Ensemble of
Chicago, who appear tonight courtesy
of Eclipse Jazz at the Michigan Union
The San Francisco Chronicle
described one performance as "A
cataclysmic union of natural forces
with human creativity achieved
through a blend of theatre, dance and
music." Cashbox said, "It would be an
oversimplification to call it jazz,
because the sounds encompass the vast
spectrum of black experience-from
African tribal music to spirituals,
rhythm and blues, funk and beyond."
Certainly the Art Ensemble has been
widely credited as one of the most im-
portant and influential groups of the
'70s, both within the jazz field, and
throughout many other areas of the
broader musical spectrum.
The origins of the group center
around the Association for the Advan-
cement of Creative Musicians (AACM),
founded in Chicago in the mid '50s by
pianists Richard Abrams and Jodi
Cristian, trumpeter Phil Cochran,
bassist Malachi Favors and drummer
Steve McCall. The association stressed
the importance of collective musical
activity and were instrumental in
originating a completely new approach
to improvisation, drawing upon music
from all world sources, but particularly
from the rich African-American

Art Ensemble of Chicago: Harmony
In the words of Richard Abrams,
"The AACM came out of the Chicago
ghetto and spread around the world."
Its foremost luminaries, beside the En-
semble, include the Creative Construc-
tion Company (with Leo Smith, Leroy
Jenkins and Anthony Braxton) and the
Air Trio of Steve McCall, Henry
Threadgill and Fred Hopkins.
The individual achievements of the
Art Ensemble are more than im-
pressive in themselves; Roscoe Mit-
chell (on saxes and flute) has evolved
into one of the most original contem-
porary composers, while Lester Bowie,
who leads his own groups and orchestra
as well as appearing with Jack
DeJohnette, Staford Davis, Wynton
Marsalis and others, is considered one
of the foremost new music trumpeters.
Ensemble bass player Malachi
Favors and percussionist Famoudou
Don Moye have both issued solo albums
on the band's own AECO label, and t
Joseph Jarman, in addition to his 1
musical reputation, is also a highlyr
regarded poet. His book Black Case

Volume I and II, Return From Exile,
was published in 1977.
All these achievements and spin-off
activities serve to strengthen the Art
Ensemble, and are essential to its con-
tinuing growth, yet the group charac'ter
remains consistently greater than the
sum of its individual parts.
In the words of trumpeter Lester
Bowie, "There is always somebody in
the Art Ensemble who knows
something about everything. Our group
is like that. We have five different
people with five different lives and sets
of experience which are brought in to
make up one music. This isn't a band
where the leader dictates the way
everything should be done. Everybody
writes, brings in material and does ex-
tra studies."
Joseph Jarman: "Our music is a syn-
thesis of all the universal forms-all of
black music and elements of European
music as well."
The groups 1980 album for ECM

records Nice Guys, has already become
established as one of the most impor-
tant records of its time, and during 1981
they followed this up with the highly
original Full Force LP.
Earlier this year the Art Ensemble
released a live album, Urban Bushmen
in addition to Roscoe Mitchell's Snurdy
McGurdy and her Dancing Shoes,
recorded with members of Detroit's
Creative Arts Collective, and Lester
Bowie's The Great Pretender.
All three albums received five-star
ratings from Downbeat magazine and
the Art Ensemble were also named
"Jazz Group of the Year" in a recent
critics poll of the same magazine.
Friday night's performance will be
the only Michigan appearance of the
Art Ensemble of Chicago, and is
strongly recommended for anyone in-
terested in innovative and creative
musicianship, free from the formal
constraints or biases of any conven-
tional musical style.0

served on GEO's Election Committee
during the recent contract vote. Mem-
bers of the left wing, in turn, accuse
Burke and others of "Red baiting."
English TA Brian Foley, a non-
member but observer of GEO, believes
"the union isn't particularly interested
in the opinions of its constituency,
unless of course they mirror their (the
militant leaders') own."
Foley also says that the rhetoric of
the left has alienated potential GEO
members from the union. "It
discourages some people from wanting
to become actively involved in the
union," Foley says.
Says Bart Cassad, a non-member
natural sciences TA: "Potential mem-
bers hear the shit that these guys are
throwing at them and decide 'screw the
H ARSH WORDS between the two
sides this fall also have contri-
buted to GEO's image of disunity.
Each side accuses the other of lying,
of falsifying figures, of immaturity in
dealing with the University, and of
general incompetence. So what's the
uninvolved TA to gain from all this?
"Only that 'I don't need to go listen to
this tripe being thrown around,' " says
math TA Chris Leary, who supported
the contract.
Others, particularly those leaning
toward the left in the union, perceive
these internal relations as nothing more
than essential debate. They take pride
in the complete democracy of their
union, in which everyone has the chan-
ce to voice an opinion.
GEO Steering Committee member
Toni Griffin says she believes such
debate is inevitable, if sometimes cum-
bersome. "At least our decisions have
been made in an open manner. There's
no secretive infighting when people
come out and make their stands clear,"
Griffin says.
But every addition to democracy of-
ten is balanced by a decrease in ef-
ficiency, and GEO-structured unlike
many large, powerful unions, in which
a relatively small leadership council,
develops strategies-may find itself to
be a bit too democratic.
The GEO Steering Committee is
made up of 10 members, elected
periodically by the membership. In ad-
dition, GEO has an organizing commit-
tee responsible for recruiting members
and a separate election committee.
When it came time to negotiate with the
University this past summer, GEO
elected a 10-member bargaining team
to sit down with the administration.
Says Dave Calvis, a math TA who
voted for the contract: "When you've
got 30 people who are needed to do
business, you've got a problem. To me,
it seems a little bit dangerous to have
that many people decide."
Despite the left wing's claims for
democracy, many GEO decisions tend
to be unrepresentative of the member-
ship, argue the moderates. Because
membership meetings often are rarely
attended by most TAs, the militants'
ability to "pack" the audience results
in minority-supported decisions, they
"The number of people who are
really far left is small, but they have in-
fluence beyond their real numbers,"
says Deborah Solinas, also from the
math department.
But the leaders of the so-called
"vocal minority" believe they have the
true interests of the union's member-
ship at heart. They don't consider
themselves a minority at all and look to
the 14-percentage-point margin of vic-
tory in defeating the contract as proof
of their support. TAs are demanding
more concessions from the University,
they say, and TAs will stand by their

union in seeking those gains.
When contract talks resume, the
union "will have the strength to change
the balance of power in the Univer-
sity," says Jon Bekken, a former
Steering Committee member and a
leader of the left wing. Bekken says the
membership currently is seeing
dramatic increases since the contract
was defeated. "We'll be able to show
the University that it can't just push us
around," says Bekken, who is working
toward his master's degree but is no
longer a TA.
"If people can get behind the
negotiations on a better contract," says
Steering Committee member Griffin,
"Then it will send signals to the ad-
ministration that they'll fight for a bet-
ter bargain."
And talk of such a fight, or more
specifically a strike, is becoming ever
more present among the membership,
whether they support such a move or
Bekken and Steering Committee
member Joe Graves, who many GEO
members identify as the two key
militant leaders, have suggested the
formation of a strike committee to open
the possibility of job action as a means
of influencing the University.
"The University won't talk to the
union in good faith unless the union is
willing to fight, so we must show them
that we are willing to strike," says
While only 186 GEO members voted
against the contract, some of the
leadership believe that sentiment
against a conciliatory position toward
the University is much greater than the
vote shows.
"Some people who chose not to vote,"
says Steering Committee member Tim
Feeman, "did so as a show of opposition
to the contract. They felt that the con-
tract wasn't worthwhile, so they were
in essence voting 'no' by not voting at
With its newfound strength, Bekken
says, GEO will force the University to
give in long before a strike would be
Bekken himself rejects the notion
that a division among the leadership is
weakening the union's position. He says
there isn't a split at all. "We don't view
ourselves as some sort of a faction or
minority group fighting with another
minority group for power," he says.
"The oppositio~n is a small, amorphous

Teaching fellows: Solidarity

The union's position right now is so
volatile that both sides agree that
without strength, GEO will self-
destruct. The difference is that the left
wing is almost sure that sufficient clout
exists, while the right wing believes the
union doesn't have a chance if it con-
tinues on its present course.
Graves says the University will grant
the union economic concessions in the
next round of bargaining in order to
avoid issues such as an affirmative ac-
tion plan. But the union will have to
show some spunk soon if the ad-

Joe's Star Lounge
Sunday, November 21
By Rob Weisberg
B IG THINGS are happening on the
new rock and roll front this
Sunday night: Not only will up-and-
coming Athenian popsters R.E.M. do
their thing at Joe's, but at the same
time a quadruple bill at the Union
Ballroom will showcase some of the
best unknown local rockers and
possibly kick off a series of independen-
tly produced all-ages gigs around town.
The Union show, featuring locals the
Truth, the State, and Ground Zero, as
well as Kalamazoo's Scooter and the
Worms, is the brainchild of State
guitarist Art Tendler. Tendler has been

trying to get something together since
the StateHouse, with which he also had
a hand in organizing, was shut down
last March.
Both the State House and the Liberty
Loft were created by local music fans,
last winter to give people of all ages
music outside the rather restricted bar
scene. Unfortunately, they both collap-
sed-the former when scheduling of the
popular Gun Club brought attention to
their improper zoning; the latter
because of insufficient fire exits and
similar problems.
This time around Tendler isn't using
a permanent space; instead, he hopes
optimally to present one benefit a mon-
th with PIRGIM at the Union, and one a
month at the Armory downtown. So far,
besides Sunday's show, he has reserved
January 14 at the Union and has a ten-
tative date of December 11 at the Ar-
mory. If all goes well, those gigs will
mix local bands with nationally known
hardcore groups. According to Tendler,
who has a Detroit band manager and
promoter working on bookings,
Chicago's Effigies are a good bet to
come in and other bands such as
Boston's SS Decontrol and the Freeze
and Washington's Discharge have ex-

pressed interest.
Tendler, who has a bit of a nostalgic
side, hopes to revive a little of the rock
and roll spirit he says is missing in the
bar scene. "I'm convinced what really
is the difference between rock and roll
now," he says, and what it was back in
the sixties, "is that it wasn't just side
entertainment while people got drunk.
The emphasis was on people being
there to hear music." Indeed, he had
visions of tearing down the walls at the
State House and turning it into a big
dance hall reminiscent of the old
Tendler and other local music people
are also irked by the age constraint at
bars that keeps a lot of the kids in front
of the .tube instead of out sucking up
some pop culture. And then, of course,
there's the intangibles: Says Truth
bassist J.B., "Bars almost always have
an uptight atmosphere."
Tendler's plans represent just one op-
tion. Local bands still occasionally play
at East Quad's Halfway Inn, where the
Truth will appear on December 4, and a
musician's co-op currently coming
together in that dorm may extend the
performance opportunities of local ar-
tists. And locals like the Truth still talk

about getting together and finding a
permanent space and turning it into
what the State House might -have
become-not just a rock and roll hall,
but a self-supporting multimedia center
available to artists of all types.
Back in clubland, Joe's is giving
townies a rare chance to see a
developing out of town group in R.E.M.,
who were spawned by the same Univer-
sity of Georgia party scene that en-
dowed us with bands like the B-52s and
Pylon. They got their break when I.R.S.
signed them, and they're now touring
vigorously in support of their debut
E.P. "Chronic Town."
The record is fairly basic synth-free
pop, with intentionally muddy produc-
tion, particularly on the vocal track
that makes it tough to figure out what
the singer is saying. Which is just as
well, according to the band's drum-
mer--they're looking more for the
sound of the syllables than for any
profound verbal inspiration.
Sounds good to me, so I'm afraid at
least one local fan will be running
around town looking for the best of both
worlds on Sunday -night. And whatever
your preference is, you're not likely to
be disappointed.

'The union isn't particularly interested in
the opinions of its constituency, unless of
course they mirror their (the militant
leaders') own.'
-Brian Foley
non-GEO English TA

intention-it o
the bargainin
GEO may fa
within its ow
University, ho
tee member
believes m
than no unior
sidering callir
of GEO.
"(Bekken a
TAs-they dor
of TAs," cla
tifying the un
people who we
lot of trouble f(
graduate sti
dissatisfied w
can reorganiz(
was first fo
"most TAs ar
Marty Burk
for 'survival Ii
bers to wake
Once a strike
fails, Burke s
we better get c
Most memb
ability to bec
adequate sup)
University to :
pay them bett(
The questioi
whether a grc
staff assistant
themselves t
The militant
the latest
organization. ]
win the war.
Barry Witi
Daily staff wi

group whose power base never laid
within the union. Our people are com-
posed of those who have been with GEO
from the start."
In noting a certain duality in the
membership, Graves says such a split
is not uncommon among unions. He
believes TAs develop a certain respect
for a group that is willing to openly fight
out its disputes. The recent struggle
over the proposed contract has actually
.strengthened the union, Graves says.
Whether or not such strength exists is
really the central issue.

ministration is to budge from its
present position. Failing such an effort,
Graves says, "the union will be
Leaders of the opposition, mean-
while, believe the union already is on
the brink of destruction. They believe a
left-wing bargaining team will have no
success in squeezing more money from
the University and that militant stands
will give the University a chance to
question before state authorities the
union's status as a representative body.
The administration says it has no such

4 Weekend/November 19. 1982

11 W eeket

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