July 15, 2011

Makanda Ken McIntyre

McIntyre was born in Boston, Massachusetts. In addition to his primary instrument, the alto saxophone, he also played flute, bass clarinet, oboe, bassoon, and many other woodwind instruments, as well as double bass, drum set, and piano. He recorded thirteen albums, one of which was released posthumously. He composed well over 400 compositions, and wrote about 200 arrangements, reflecting the culture of his Caribbean and African American roots, including blues, jazz, and calypso. His very first album entitled Stone Blues was recorded in 1960, accompanied by local Boston musicians with whom he had been rehearsing for several years.

In the early 1990s he changed his name to Makanda Ken McIntyre. While performing in Zimbabwe, a stranger handed him a piece of paper with the word "Makanda" written on it; the word means "many skins" in the Ndebele language and "many heads" in Shona.

Rythm is the essence of the universal philosophy in Africa. And rhythm is the essence of all African-American music. In rhythm there is a necessary tension that is oftentimes considered dissonant by those who wish to apply a harmonic analysis to a rhythm concept. The analysis should be capable of understanding that the fundamental reality of life is rhythm not harmony.

In the Wind: The Woodwind Quartets

1. Peas 'n' Rice 7:10
2. Home 6:42
3. Charshee 7:25
4. Black Sugar Cane 6:39
5. Chitlins & Cavyah 8:12
6. Mambooga 4:43
7. Blanche 9:54
8. Puunti 6:28
9. Chasing The Sun 6:26
10. Eileen 5:44
11. Amy 5:36

In his final years, multi-reedist Makanda Ken McIntyre was fond of saying in concert that a piece was off his last album, which came out more than twenty years prior. He would laugh, but the joke pointed out how criminally underdocumented he was during his life. In June 2001, that industry oversight was finally corrected with the release of A New Beginning , a bitterly ironic title since he died the same month.

McIntyre's associations were few, which perhaps is why he was so little recognized. He played a short stint with Cecil Taylor in 1966 and featured Eric Dolphy on the 1960 quintet recording Looking Ahead. With his interest in the woodwind family and the strong compositional sense he brought to his improvisations, Dolphy was perhaps the closest McIntyre had to a kindred spirit. In a just jazz world, McIntyre would also have enjoyed the sort of accolades Dolphy received.

He might get those laurels through the work of the Contemporary African American Music Organization (CAAMO), a project McIntyre himself founded over twenty years ago and which is now overseeing the release and publishing of his remarkable vision. In the Wind , the first CAAMO release, was recorded in October of 1995 and April of 1996, and it features a multi-tracked McIntyre playing a variety of pieces for quartets of like instruments. From a lovely clarinet setting of his staple "Peas 'n' Rice" to more challenging (for player and listener) pieces for oboe, English horn and bassoon, the disc is a gorgeous tribute while providing a fascinating insight into the composer and performer. For studio constructions, the pieces are surprisingly warm. At the same time, it carries the uncanny feeling of multi-tracked works by other masters (eg. Roscoe Mitchell) that give several voices to a single mind. The inner workings are made apparent by exponent.

CAAMO is in the process of cataloguing some five hundred compositions and two hundred arrangements by McIntyre, as well as digitizing over seven hundred recordings for donation to the Library of Congress and establishing repertory ensembles. It might engrave into history a great mind for the music. Better late than never. AllAboutJazz


The Contemporary African American Music Organization (CAAMO) was founded in 1983 by the world-renowned multi-instrumentalist, composer, orchestrator and educator Dr. Makanda Ken McIntyre. The mission of The Contemporary African American Music Organization is to promote free expression and continuing education in music and the performing arts with African-American origins.

CAAMO has produced more than 250 performances and educational workshops at venues throughout the New York City metropolitan area, including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Carnegie Recital Hall, the Museum of Modern Art, the American Museum of Natural History, Roulette, the Brecht Forum and the Knitting Factory. From 1984 to 1989, CAAMO sponsored open rehearsals and weekly performances by the CAAMO Orchestra. CAAMO has presented performances by a huge range of artists, including Dr. McIntyre, Craig Harris, Charli Persip, Wilber Morris, Joanne Brackeen, Jason Hwang, David Murray, Hamiett Blueitt, Sonny Fortune, Reggie Workman, Andrei Strobert, E.J. Allen, Donald Smith and Kwe Yao Agyapon.

In addition to its support of musical performance, CAAMO has produced workshops on music and creativity for students at the pre-school, elementary, secondary and collegiate levels. A partial list of participating institutions includes the New School University, Cornell University, New England Conservatory, Harlem School of the Arts, the CODE Foundation, the Philadelphia Clef Club for Jazz and the Performing Arts and the East Bronx NAACP Day Care Center. These workshops cover a wide range of musical and creative territory, including singing, rhythm, instrumental technique, composition, ensemble performance, history, theory and inter-disciplinary collaboration.

Makanda Ken McIntyre (born Kenneth Arthur McIntyre; also known as Ken McIntyre) (September 7, 1931 – June 13, 2001)wiki


  1. What a wonderful blog! Excellent!

    Your readers might want to know about this concert:
    Peace Thru Jazz!

    Celebrating the Music of Dr. Makanda Ken McIntyre

    Arts& Education Continuum, in conjunction with the Contemporary African American Music Organization, is proud to present an octet under the direction of Craig S. Harris and his performing the music of Dr. Makanda KenMcIntyre at 8:00 pm on Friday, October 21, 2011 at the Middle Collegiate Church, 50 East 7th Street, New York, New York (at Second Avenue). Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door.

    The band will include Craig Harris, trombone and musical director, Richard Fairfax, James Stewart and Jay Rodriguez on reeds; Eddie Allen on trumpet, Richard Harper on piano and baritone horn, Calvin Jones on bass, and Tony Lewis on drums, with guest appearances by Andrew Bemkey on piano, Napoleon Revels-Bey on drums and Warren Smith on percussion.

    For more info go to mkmjazz.com

  2. Thank you for complements and info, it is nice to know that his work is admired. Amongst many musicians, I feel this man had something special about him.