Kevin Whitehead

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This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF THELONIOUS MONK'S "ERONEL")

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This is FRESH AIR. Fifty years ago this month, singer-songwriter Bobbie Gentry released this song "Ode To Billie Joe," her enigmatic slice of life in rural Mississippi.

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(SOUNDBITE OF SEXMOB'S "HEAR YOU")

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This is FRESH AIR. In Chicago in the 1960s, a group of black composers formed the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians dedicated to making original music that freely crossed genre lines. The AACM's flagship band was the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says a new book about the Art Ensemble explains how well they took care of business onstage and off.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GET IN LINE")

THE ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO: Get in line (unintelligible). Get in line.

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This is FRESH AIR. Count Basie's band from Kansas City reached New York in December of 1936. Musicians took note immediately. But the general public took a little longer.

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