Air / New Air

This trio, which specializes in collective improvisation, was the first to adopt the name Air from the many other ensembles of different genres. It was born directly out of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians membership. Over a period of 12 years, the group produced 11 albums. It used modes similar to those of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. In 1971, Henry Threadgill, a saxophonist, agreed to make modern arrangements that were inspired by Scott Joplin’s ragtime music. This idea was conceived by Anthony Braxton in 1976. The trio was named Reflection after Threadgill, Fred Hopkins, and Steve McCall as bassists. The group split up in the next year but they reassembled in New York and adopted the elemental name Air. Their collective talent for spontaneity and creativity led to a series of albums including Air Song, Air Raid and Live Air. These albums combined material recorded at Studio Rivbea, New York City’s Soho, and at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Air Lore was released in 1979 and features songs by Jelly Roll Morton. McCall was able to leave the group in 1982 to join Cecil Taylor and Roscoe Mitchel, and Air Mail, which includes Threadgill’s invention, the hubkaphone (an instrument made from hubcaps), and 80 Degrees Below’82. Pheeroan AkLaff was McCall’s replacement. This dynamic Detroiter would eventually be replaced by Andrew Cyrille after the group dissolution. The trio was renamed New Air and recorded live at the 1983 Montreal Jazz Festival. However, they only released one album, Air Show No. 1 in collaboration with Cassandra Wilson, vocalist. Air was no longer in existence by the time that this recording was released in 1987. Threadgill had become a leader of larger ensembles and issued records such as X-75, Vol. 1, When Was That?, Just the Facts, and Pass the Bucket. Steve McCall died in May 1989 from a stroke. Fred Hopkins was ten years later. Allmusic

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