Air was a free jazz trio founded in 1971 by saxophone player, Henry Threadgill, double bassist, Fred Hopkins, and drummer, Steve McCall. They combined radical free improvisation with a strong sense of tune and equal emphasis on each instrument in the group.
They began when Threadgill was asked by Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois, to arrange a number of Scott Joplin songs. Joplin was so strongly associated with piano that the musicians enjoyed the challenge of performing his trademark songs without piano. They opted to play them as rags and as a basis for jazz improvisation.
The group recorded twelve albums, among them Air Lore from 1979 on the Arista/Novus label of Arista Records, which is a recording of improvisations over more Scott Joplin songs as well as selections by Jelly Roll Morton and a Henry Threadgill original. It remains a classic. Other albums of note are Air Time from 1977, and 80° Below '82 from 1982. The Penguin Guide to Jazz included Air Song and Air Time in its suggested "Core Collection."
Air broke up and reformed several times, and after McCall's death Andrew Cyrille performed as part of the trio. They released two CDs with drummer, Pheeroan Aklaff, as "New Air" (on Black Saint).
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