Abrams and Mitchell at Mills

Longtime AACM members Muhal Richard Abrams and Roscoe Mitchell have a show tomorrow at Mills College.

For nearly half a century, pianist Muhal Richard Abrams and saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell have been pushing boundaries as improvisers. For most of their lives they’ve been known as jazz guys. Abrams was the guiding light behind Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), a font of revolutionary ideas, especially back in the ’60s and ’70s, when the jazz avant-garde invaded the mainstream. Mitchell was the guiding spirit behind the most famous band to emerge from the AACM, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, which started as his group and had as its motto “Great Black Music: Ancient to the Future.”

Times change. Abrams and Mitchell are now often associated with a broader swathe of improvised contemporary music. When they play, “jazz” isn’t necessarily mentioned, even though these two continue to play with the same eccentric and intuitive abandon, matched somehow by a logical and brainy persistence, that always characterized their music.

Now, Mitchell holds the Darius Milhaud Chair in Composition at Mills College, where he joins Abrams on Friday for a night of duets in the school’s newly renovated Jeannik Mequet Littlefield Concert Hall. The concert is part of the Mills Music Festival 2009, a new music extravaganza running through April 5 and celebrating the hall’s opening. Abrams and Mitchell perform at 8 p.m. Friday. Tickets: $20; $12 alumni, seniors and students. http://www.mills.edu/musicfestival.

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