Member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and a co-founder of the Art Ensemble of Chicago.
He started playing trumpet when he was five years old and went on to collaborate with a wide variety of artists before co-founding the Black Artists Group in St. Louis.
He has performed with a variety of musicians and in a variety of different styles, including The Skatalites, a ska band.
He married Fontella Bass, as well as becoming her musical director, in 1965; he was married to his second wife Deborah until his death in 1999.
He was a critic of Wynton Marsalis because of Marsalis' conservative approach towards jazz.