Alvin Fielder Talks Free Jazz, Working for Tricky Dicky and About Dying A Few Times
Alvin Fielder helped found the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in Chicago, worked for the Nixon Administration and spent much of his life running the family drug store.
Photo courtesy of Nameless Sound Alvin Fielder
However, hearing him talk about all of his accomplishments by phone from his Mississippi home, winning Nameless Sound's "Resounding Vision Award" could very well be his favorite achievement.
In 2009, Fielder was playing a trio gig in New Orleans when he started feeling completely awful. Fielder, a pharmacist for 56 years in Starkville and Jackson, Mississippi, didn't know what was up so he visited the doctor.
The blood work came back and showed that the normally healthy Fielder was suffering from heart, kidney, blood and liver problems. He was immediately admitted to the hospital, where he spent most of the next ten months.
Medical personnel took all of the blood out of Fielder's body to clean it. His weight dropped under 100 pounds and he couldn't walk. At one time, he was sent over to hospice.
"I actually died a couple of times," says Fielder, who adds that nobody could figure out the problem. "I was on life support and couldn't come off. Then one day, I just came off. Of course the wife was sitting there crying."
A few months later, Fielder, now age 73, investigated and found the answer: An intense response to a drug that he had taken for a skin ailment. "The allergic reaction happened after two or three months of being off the drug," he says.
Makes sense why he's excited about the "Resounding Vision Award," huh?
"I was very much surprised," says Fielder about his reaction when Nameless Sound founding director David Dove told him the news. "You've got other musicians that haven't received the award, like Kidd Jordan, who's been honored by the French government, the late Bill Dixon and other drummers like Andrew Cyrille and Sunny Murray."
A look at Fielder's résumé proves that he's very much being modest.
After attending Texas Southern University, Fielder moved to Chicago in 1959, where he connected with the AACM, an organization that unites musicians who present sounds on the advanced-listening side of the spectrum.
"That group really changed my life along with Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson when I was working with him in Houston at Club Ebony," says Fielder. "[The AACM] had strict rules that we can only play original music. We couldn't play anybody else's music. We couldn't even play Coltrane's music."