Interview with Chuck Nessa, record producer of AACM albums
By Sam Ottenhoff
29 November 1996
Why do you think the AACM happened in Chicago?
There were a couple of reasons for the AACM happening in Chicago. One, I think in general that the scene in Chicago was a bit more self-reliant than in New York. I mean in New York there was this machine and hierarchy that had been in place for a long time. You had to get used to this and adapt to it. In Chicago it was a bit more wide open. But primarily, it was just because of the personalities that occurred at the time. They happened to be coming up at the right time. Primarily Muhal Richard Abrams as an organizer.
Why did the members of the AACM stay in Chicago, why didn't they go to New York?
I think it is because they were really interested in what they were doing. They were in an ideal situation. The AACM presented a pool of people to work on things. For example, if Joseph Jarman wanted to write a piece for 14 people, you know, he could get it rehearsed and performed, which is not a situation he would have in New York. This framework was available for developing things and working things out, and they were smart enough to take advantage and use it.
Was there any anti-New York sentiment in the members of the AACM?
With Chicago being the second city, especially in the jazz world.
No. I think they were developing their own thing, instead of a reaction against New York.
Why has the AACM been so successful, and other musician organizations like the Black Artists' Group of St.
Louis have not?
The BAG was not as successful because they didn't have as large a pool of people to try, and 1 or 2 people being absent would really hurt them. Where as in Chicago, enough really strong personalities were around to keep it going and get it established.
What do you think are the lasting contributions of the AACM?
The big thing at the time prior to the them was energy music, you know, all out blowing. The AACM in general was concerned with how to organize sound and how to use these sounds, and energy was just part of this. We have all of these techniques now, and how do we organize them? They composed and improvised with this in mind. I think that is their primary contribution, it was the organization and use of all of these techniques.