Drummer and early AACM mover Alvin Fielder has died – The Wire
Alvin Fielder performing at Anthony Braxton residency at Sonic Frontiers, 2015. Photo by Lee Shook
American drummer Alvin Fielder Jr has died. Among those paying tribute have been bassist and collaborator Damon Smith, younger Marsalis brother Jason, and Joshua Abrams of Natural Information Society, who performed with the drummer in 2016.
Born on 23 November 1935 in Mississippi, Fielder was from a musical family. His brother, William, was a trumpeter and the Director of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University. The first instrument Fielder learned was the piano, though he didn't take to the instrument, instead turning to baseball and football.
In the late 1940s he got his hands on a recording of Max Roach playing “Ko-Ko”, an experience which turned him onto modern jazz. “I've been a believer ever since,” he told Clifford Allen in an interview published in allaboutjazz.com in 2007. “Max was very good to me; I got a chance to really know Max I guess maybe 15 or 17 years ago… he was probably the dominant factor in my life after my father and grandfather.”
Fielder joined the school band aged 13 playing drums for the marches at football matches. In 1953 he moved to New Orleans to study pharmacy at Xavier University as part of the family business. There he would have drum lessons under legendary Ornette Coleman collaborator Ed Blackwell before transferring his studies to Texas Southern University. He became active in the Houston jazz scene before moving to Chicago. There he would work with Sun Ra Arkestra, Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, Eddie Harris and many more. He became a member of the AACM alongside the likes of Roscoe Mitchell and Malachi Favors, and in 1966 he played percussion on the landmark Roscoe Mitchell record Sound.
In 1968 Fielder returned to Mississippi to take over the family business due to his father's ill health. Through the Black Arts Music Society, Fielder brought musicians such as Mitchell, John Stubblefield, Favors, Abrams and Clifford Jordan to Mississippi. In the mid-1970s he started working with Kidd Jordan and co-lead the Improvisational Arts quintet. He would continue to work with Jordan for over four decades. In 2007, after over half a century as a player, he finally released his debut and only disc as a leader, A Measure Of Vision.