Free Parking for improvisation in multiple environments.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Art Ensemble of Chicago: Tradition

Art Ensemble of Chicago - Charlie M
From Full Force: ECM 1187 [Buy]
Art Ensemble of Chicago - Promenade: Cote Bamako II
From Urban Bushmen: ECM 1211/1212 [Buy]

The operating statement of Art Ensemble of Chicago is "Great Black Music: Ancient To the Future". And homage the traditions of this music can be heard throughout the AEC's long recorded career. From New Orleans polyphony to seat-of-the-pants funk, from bebop to the blues, it's all in there, filtered by the AEC's skills as composers and improvisers.

These two examples pay respect to the black musical heritage that spans the centuries and the Atlantic Ocean. Charlie M is, of course, a reference to Charles Mingus, and AEC appropriates the loose-limbed swing and combustible jazz mastered by Mingus' mid-sized groups in the late 1950s. This version was recorded in New York in 1980, just a year after Mingus' death.

Promenade: Cote Bamako channels a musical spirit that runs more ancient still. With the entire ensemble doubling on percussion and "little instruments", we are placed in the midst of some un-named ritual on the West Coast of Africa. An evocation of musical tradition that transcends any particular named culture, a tradition of which the Art Ensemble are the present-day griots.

Cote Bamako was recorded in May 1980 at the Amerika Haus in Munich, a live show released as the double ECM set Urban Bushmen, and considered by many to be AEC's finest live album.

Roscoe Mitchell and his bass saxophone. (Photo Credits: Jacky LePage)


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