In the mid '60s the Chicago and St. Louis jazz tradition became embodied in the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in Chicago and Black Artist Group (BAG) in St. Louis. The two collectives were founded on the freedom principle and were dedicated to jazz as a living, vital expression. Oliver Lake and Julius Hemphill facilitated exchanges between the two groups-- Lester Bowie, spending time in both locations, the common denominator. Talking Horns features AACM trumpeter Malachi Thompson with BAG saxmen Oliver Lake and Hamiet Bluiett.

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