The Bluesman\’s Killing Floor

December 20, 2005

Thinking of Muhal

Filed under: Music — bbluesman @ 9:32 am

Way back when I was an adolescent in young adult’s clothing… I had an after-school volunteer job at a place called Environ. Environ was a loft-space in an old factory building. John Fischer had the front space-Environ and Chris & Danny(Brubeck) sons of jazz musician and composer Dave Brubeck had the back. Pretty heady times for 16 year old me.

I arranged bookings for Environ which was a performance space. John had a piano there and let Muhal Richard Abrams, co-founder of AAMC of Chicago practice there. Muhal had a great bouncy bebop style of playing which I dug big time. I was listening to a lot of Monk, Sonny Clark, and Bud Powell around that time. I had a few Muhal records as well. Ah, records-remember those things? Anyway-it was such a kick when I went in early a few times to organize my concession  stand there. I didn’t get paid for the booking work(naturally since it was volunteer) so I worked out a deal with John where I ran concession selling refreshments and indie-jazz records popular in our “loft jazz” scene,and split profits with him. I was a fairly entrepreneurial teenager.

I would hear Muhal playing and mention to him how I liked a certain tune off of one of his records and he’d start playing something that sounded great(inevitably the wrong piece) and I’d say “No, not that one .” This would go on until he got to the one I had in mind. Musical heaven for me-because even the “wrong” tunes were great and this was a master musician I admired and respected playing directly for me.



  1. So there I was, doing a blog-google search on Muhal (I’d just posted something about him on my own), and came across an entry referencing Environ and, lo and behold! it’s the guy who introduced me to Environ in the first place!

    Hey Mark, don’t know if you recall me, but I ended up working with Fischer until about 1980, after we’d moved up the street (525 Broadway, I think) and eventually closed the place down. It was a fun few years though. Saw much great music, got to know a number of folk (including Muhal) and, eventually, it helped serve as a basis for getting into actually writing about the stuff.

    So, thanks! Hope all’s well.



    Comment by Brian Olewnick — May 31, 2006 @ 10:16 pm | Reply

  2. When it works, the internet doesn’t get much better than this.

    Comment by Mark Forman — June 1, 2006 @ 8:18 am | Reply

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