Joshua Abrams / Natural Information Society

Jazz Road Creative Residencies Grant Recipient

Natural Information Society

Recipient Information


Chicago, Illinois

Year of Award


Grant or Fellowship

Jazz Road Creative Residencies Grant

Grant Amount


About the Project

Creation of new work to be recorded with large ensemble including Chicago's most active experimental composer/performers; presented at Constellation and the South Side's Stony Island Art Banks with Rebuild Foundation performance space. This space cultivates activism for cultural development and neighborhood transformation.

Residency location 

Chicago, IL

About the Artist

Joshua Abrams is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, and improviser. His professional career began 30 years ago busking on the streets of Philadelphia as an original member of the legendary hip hop group The Roots & performing the music of Earle Brown in an ensemble conducted by the composer. Since then, Abrams has been a central figure at the heart of the jazz, improvisational, experimental and indie music communities of Chicago.

Abrams was an original member of the “back porch minimalism” quartet Town & Country and the trio Sticks & Stones with Matana Roberts & Chad Taylor. In 2010 he founded his primary group Natural Information Society (NIS). As the group’s leader he has composed, recorded & toured with a shifting-line up of musicians making up the NIS ensemble including Lisa Alvarado, Mikel Patrick Avery, Jason Stein, Hamid Drake, Mai Sugimoto & many others. NIS navigates forms that emphasize collective listening & simultaneous differences while building a space that is both meditative & propulsive. Grounded in Abrams' interwoven & mutilayered compositions, the group's long-form environments have been described as ecstatic minimalism. NIS has released six albums for Eremite Records including Magnetoception (2015), Simultonality (2017), Mandatory Reality (2019) & decension (Out of Our Constrictions) with Evan Parker (2021).  These recordings have received critical & popular acclaim from publications such as The Wire, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Pitchfork, & many others.  NIS & Bitchin’ Bajas released the collaborative Automaginary on Drag City Records (2015).  Joshua’s other recent releases include Cloud Script (RogueArt) a quartet with Ari Brown, Gerald Cleaver & Jeff Parker & Mind Maintenance (Drag City), a duo with Chad Taylor.

Abrams has scored the music for nine feature length documentaries including four by American documentary icon Steve James: The Interrupters, Life Itself, the Oscar nominated Abacus: Small Enough To Jail & the docuseries America To Me. Other scores include The Trials of Muhammad Ali, Almost There & The First Step. His score for Life Itself was nominated by Cinema Eye Honors for best score. 

As a sideman & collaborator Abrams has appeared on over 100 records including work with Fred Anderson, Bonny ""Prince"" Billy, Hamid Drake, Theaster Gates, Joe McPhee, Nicole Mitchell, Mike Reed & Matana Roberts.

In 2018 Abrams was a Grants for Artist recipient from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.