In 1971 Malachi Favors (who sometimes went by Maghostut, a Coptic word meaning “I am your host”) told writer Val Wilmer, “If the cosmics didn’t lead me, I would be in some lounge making two or three hundred dollars a week, playing tunes. Many times I’d like to go back because this is a difficult road.” But Favors stayed the course until his death in January at age 76, imparting spirituality, ironic humor, and consummate musicianship to a host of free-jazz groups. He played bass in south-side jazz and R & B bands and backed bebop stars like Freddie Hubbard and Dizzy Gillespie before coming into his own in the 60s as a charter member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Favors’s stalwart grooves and fluid arco technique were the sole anchor for the group’s wild and wide-ranging music during the years they played without a full-time drummer (a phase that ended when Famoudou Don Moye joined in 1969). His facility with banjo, zither, and myriad percussive instruments was crucial to the success of the ensemble’s surreal celebrations of the African diaspora–as was his penchant for wearing African garb and face paint onstage. While Favors never pursued a high-profile solo career like bandmates Roscoe Mitchell and the late Lester Bowie, he was active outside the AEC, playing with Kahil El’Zabar’s Ritual Trio and Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet, and just prior to his death he was gigging frequently with Vincent Taylor and Hannah Taylor at the Velvet Lounge. This memorial concert will include performances by Moye, Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Ari Brown, Tatsu Aoki, and the AACM Big Band. Wednesday, March 24, 7 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lauren Deutsch.