In For the Long Haul: Famoudou Don Moye

Usually the most unprepossessing member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC), drummer Famoudou Don Moye, 72, is given a forum to philosophize by Jazzwise’s Kevin Le Gendre on the occasion of the AEC’s 50th anniversary tour. The Rochester-born Moye explains how he joined the band, then consisting of saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, plus reedist Shaku Joseph Jarman, trumpeter Lester Bowie and bassist Malachi Favors Maghostut — the last three of whom have since died — in the early 1970s, because of his percussion skills. Moye, who played in marching bands as a teenager and whose honorific is a tribute to Guinean master drummer Famoudou Konaté, an early mentor, insists that the influence of elders: parents, grandparents, artists, activists, campaigners, thinkers and leaders from preceding generations are what aided the band in concocting its synthesis of Great Black Music from many areas. Over the years the AEC has assumed many sizes, while playing with guests ranging from Cecil Taylor to Sun Ra, so he welcomes the band’s present large touring ensemble, including trumpeter Hugh Ragin, flutist Nicole Mitchell and bassist Silvia Bolognesi. His recommendation for succeeding in music is the same as succeeding for life in a difficult world: “You have to be positive. The shit can’t get no worse. All you can do is say ‘it’s gotta get better’.”