8 Bold Souls
The snows of winter in Chicago often reveal as much as they cover. During the month of January Chicago slows down in what may be called a citywide hibernation.
In January of 1985 eight musicians came together to premier new music for a series of Thursday night concerts in downtown Chicago at a performance venue called Chicago Filmmakers. The group featured the unusual instrumentation of two woodwinds, trumpet, trombone, cello, tuba, bass, and trap drums. The concerts, entitled “New Music for 8 Bold Souls”, were successful with both critics and musicians. Hence the formation for the group known as 8 Bold Souls, led by Composer, Reedist Edward Wilkerson. In order to have a good understanding of 8 Bold Souls it is important to understand a bit more about the ensembleís leader. Musically Wilkerson finds inspiration from those he has studied or worked with such as Muhal Richard Abrams, Henry Threadgill, Lester Bowie, Fred Anderson, Von Freeman, Johnny Britt, as well as many other fellow members of the AACM. In addition, Wilkerson cites many non-musical inspirations like family, education and readings. Fostered by the AACM, Wilkerson learned to think about music in an encouraging environment that promoted musical education in equal doses with experimentation. 8 Bold Souls’ music is both melodic (reminiscent of small groups led by Duke Ellington and Jimmy Lunceford) and challenging (featuring complex arrangements for innovative instrumentation).
One of the distinguishing characteristics of 8 Bold Souls has always been the preponderance of low sounding instruments. Pinning down the root of these fundamental sonorities is the contra bass where Harrison Bankhead holds court. Harrison is a native of the city of Waukegan just north of Chicago. His musical development was comprised of a variety of situations including studies at The Sherwood School of Music and Northeastern University. Currently, Harrison studies with Roger Cline of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Harrison is known as a musician who appreciates a musical challenge. He has never shunned an opportunity to participate in new and exciting ensembles and concerts where creativity abounds. From flamenco, to classical, to gospel, to soul, Harrison has lent his unique bass styling to enhance whatever ensemble is fortunate enough to have his participation. Luckily he expends much of his musical energies with the ‘Souls.’ Additionally he has performed with Oliver Lake, Joshua Redman, Fred Anderson, Von Freeman, The Waukegan Symphony, Roscoe Mitchell, Billy Pierce, Billy Harper and many others.
Mwata Bowden (baritone, tenor saxophone, clarinet), having picked up ‘one of those old, metal, silver clarinets’ in church when he was twelve, soon found himself in the junior high school band and a couple of years later, playing at DuSable High School for one of the most revered figures in Chicago Black Music, Captain Walter Dyett. This was the man who had inspired and trained no less than Nat ‘King’ Cole, Johnny Griffin, Gene Ammons, Von Freeman, Richard Davis, Fred Hopkins, and other South Side music giants too numerous to mention. The rigorous musical training Mwata received at DuSable earned him a spot at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. As he came close to completing his music education degree, reality set in. On his teacher’s advice, Bowden picked up a baritone saxophone and started working the big bands and the R&B outfits that were so popular in Chicago in the late 60’s. No sooner had Mwata graduated than he was touring the country with the Chi-Lites, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Albert King and other R&B groups. And it was this time on the road that inevitably led him to the AACM, back home in Chicago. During the past several years, Bowden has gone beyond the stage of discovery into genuine mastery. In addition to the obvious technical virtuosity he commands on baritone saxophone and clarinet, he has been able to put together ensembles that develop his ideas on a somewhat larger scale. In his Sound Spectrum and Tri-Tone ensembles, for instance, he has presented long and complex compositions that nevertheless prove accessible to the uninitiated listener. Above all, though the AACM remains the constant in his musical life. Bowden is a former Chairman of the AACM.
Trumpeter Robert Griffin, Jr. grew up in Chicago in a family where expression was a part of life. A father who played saxophone and a mother who was a dancer naturally led Robert to experience life through the complex prism of music and entertainment. He recalls family outings to the Tivolli and Regal Theaters where he, on an average day, might see the Count Basie Orchestra, Art Farmer, or Miles Davis, in addition to a movie and cartoon. An early dream was realized when Robert played under the direction of Red Sanders in the Regal Theater house band. This position along with jobbing around town allowed him to perform with Nancy Wilson and Red/Holt Unlimited. It was in the early seventies that Robert began performing with members of the AACM and began developing his unique voice in creative music. Robert has been a member of Vandy Harris’ group, The Front Burners, The AACM Large Ensemble and 8 Bold Souls. Through the years, he has also shared the stage with Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Lester Bowie, Kahil El’Zabar, and many others.
Isaiah S. Jackson (trombone, percussion) was born in a small town called Charleston, Mississippi. He began music studies in 6th grade with Professor James O. Micou of Kosziesko, Mississippi. Isaiah did his undergraduate studies at Mississippi Valley State University with Professor O’Neal Sanford and Dr. Russell Boone. He also studied with Dr. Alvin Baptiste at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Professors Bunky Green, Willie Pickens, Bill Russo, Dr. Richard Wang and Muhal Richard Abrams. Through the years, he has performed throughout the Mid-south and the Mid-west with artists such as Little Johnny Taylor, Jimmy Reed, Otis Clay, Garland Green, Little Mack Simmons, The Dells, and Third World. Presently he performs with Shadow Vignettes and 8 Bold Souls, both groups under the direction of Edward Wilkerson Jr. Isaiah Jacksonís discography: 1973, with the Mandells of Chicago on the June Bug record label; 1976, with Edwin Rivera and La Poderosa (Tipica 76) on the Lydia label; 1977, on Sea Saint label with Uncle Reamus and Jerry Weaver; 1985 with Shadow Vignettes on Birth of a Notion, 1988 Video with John Toles-Bey called Honky Tonk Bud; 1988 8 Bold Souls (8BS) on Sessoms Records; 1992 Sideshow, (8BS) on Arabesque Record label, 1994 AntFarm, (8BS) on Arabesque Record Label; 1997 Vandy Harris and The Front Burners on Katumbi Records.
Naomi Millender (cello) attended the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. Later in college in Terre Haute, Indiana she was the first chair in the university’s symphony orchestra for three years. It was after college, in Chicago, that she started playing and managing small chamber and community classical orchestras. She is a founding member of The Gary Civic Orchestra and the string quartet, Heart Strings. She currently performs with both groups. One day, in 1980, she attended a concert at a college in Chicago and heard, for the first time the AACM in. She approached Edward Wilkerson, Jr. and told him that she played the cello. About five years later, Edward called her. She performed once with him, and told Edward how much she enjoyed the experience, and to please call again. Edward called within a few days. He was putting together a new groupÖ..8 Bold Souls.
Dushun Moseley (trap drums, percussion) is a performer and bandleader. Based in Chicago, he is the bandleader for the Vizitors and the Signature Group, a member of the 8 Bold Souls, Frontburners, Chicago 3D, Shadow Vignettes and the AACM Big Band. Dushun has toured extensively as a soloist, in duets, trios and big bands. He has been called upon to do numerous engagements in social clubs, music halls and festivals in cities throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, the Caribbean, Africa and Japan. These performances have contributed to his disting
uished reputation as a forerunner in this generation of innovators. His style combines traditional musics in a combo band setting, but feels equally at home pushing big bands and orchestras to their limit. He produced his first CD with the Vizitors which was released in Fall of 1998. He has performed with numerous entertainers such as Sasha Dolton, Roscoe Mitchell, Steve Colson, Douglas Ewart, Henry Threadgill, Anthony Davis, Don Moye, Don Cherry, Richard Muhal Abrams, Jodie Christian and others.
Gerald Deon Powell’s (tuba) love for music started at the age of six, while singing in the children’s choir at his church. Little did his parents know that by the third grade, when he saw the Harvey Grade School Band perform at his school, that Gerald would feel that he “just had to be a part of the band.” By the fourth grade, Gerald’s love for the “low brass” began when his first band and music teacher assigned hhim to the trombone. Several years later, the tuba became the instrument in which he could best express his love for music. In 1995, he graduated from Morehouse College. Upon the completion of college, Gerald began his teaching career. In 1996, fate crossed his path with Edward Wilkerson and he embarked upon the fruitful journey with the 8 Bold Souls. Currently, he enjoys a very rewarding teaching career at the Recovering the Gifted Child Academy, a Chicago public school, where he teaches choral music and band. At the age of 27, Gerald believes that there is so much left to accomplish. In addition to his professional aspirations, Gerald Powell is also a dedicated husband and father.
Edward Wilkerson, Jr. (tenor, alto saxophone, clarinet, alto clarinet) is an internationally recognized composer, arranger, musician, and educator based in Chicago. As founder and director of the cutting edge octet, 8 Bold Souls and the twenty-five member performance ensemble, Shadow Vignettes, Edward has toured festivals and concert halls throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, and the Middle East. Defender, a large-scale piece for Shadow Vignettes, was commissioned by the Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Fund and featured in the 10th Anniversary of New Music America, a presentation of Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival. The 1998 Chicago Jazz Festival featured another commissioned work by Wilkerson entitled Dark Star. Wilkersonís work may be heard on fourteen recordings, including two film soundtracks. Wilkerson has received grants from the Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer, and the Community Arts Assistance Program, and has been cited in numerous music polls. A former member of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Wilkerson has also played with such artists and groups as the AACM Big Band, Roscoe Mitchell, Douglas Ewart, The Temptations, Chico Freeman, Gerri Allen, The Lyric Opera of Chicago, Muhal Richard Abrams, Aretha Franklin, George Lewis, and many others.