Malachi Favors, 76, Jazz Bassist With Art Ensemble of Chicago, Dies
February 9, 2004 By BEN RATLIFF
The jazz bassist Malachi Favors, for 35 years a member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, died on Jan. 30 in Chicago. He was 76.
The cause was pancreatic cancer, said his daughter, Malba Favors Allen.
A remarkable group that combined traditional elements of jazz and blues, West African music, chanting, ritual, abstract sound and silence, the Art Ensemble of Chicago was one of the landmark groups of experimental jazz. But with all its theatricality – Mr. Favors and other members wore face paint on stage and musicians played odd percussion instruments – the rudiments were not slighted. Mr. Favors, a concise, direct and eloquent player, formed a boldly swinging rhythm section with the drummer Don Moye.
Mr. Favors sometimes added Maghostut to his name, which his daughter said was an Egyptian word meaning “I am the host.” He was born in Chicago and served in the Army during the Korean War, and then, back in Chicago in the late 1950’s, he studied with the bassists Wilbur Ware and Israel Crosby, and worked with the pianists Andrew Hill and King Fleming. He briefly attended what was then Wilson Junior College, where the saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell was a fellow student.
By the mid-60’s Mr. Favors and Mr. Mitchell moved into the circle of the pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, whose Experimental Band provided the initial spark for the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (or A.A.C.M.), an influential cooperative society in jazz. At first the Art Ensemble of Chicago was Mr. Mitchell’s own group, and it also included Mr. Favors, Mr. Moye, the trumpeter Lester Bowie and the saxophonist Joseph Jarman. While in France during a European trip in 1969 they were first billed as the Art Ensemble of Chicago. The group stayed in Europe until 1971, quickly establishing itself as one of the more innovative new jazz ensembles and recording more than a dozen albums.
By 1972 the ensemble was recording for Atlantic Records, which raised its profile considerably. By 1978 the group switched to ECM Records, and later recorded for the Japanese label DIW. Mr. Bowie died in 1999, and the group’s last recording, as a quartet without Mr. Bowie, was “The Meeting” (Pi Records).
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Favors is survived by his brothers James and George of Chicago; his sisters Rosetta Rinner and Mary Golden of Chicago and Nayyinah Nusaddiq of Atlanta; and two grandchildren.