Art Ensemble of Chicago

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Art Ensemble of Chicago
Art Ensemble of Chicago moers78.jpg
Art Ensemble of Chicago, New Jazz Festival Moers (Moers Festival), 1978
Background information
Origin Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Genres Avant-garde jazz, free jazz
Years active 1969–present
Labels BYG, Nessa, Delmark, ECM, AECO, Pi
Website www.artensembleofchicago.com
Members
Past members

The Art Ensemble of Chicago is an avant-garde jazz group that grew out of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in the late 1960s.[1] The ensemble integrates many jazz styles and plays many instruments, including "little instruments": bells, bicycle horns, birthday party noisemakers, wind chimes, and various forms of percussion. The musicians wear costumes and face paint while performing. These characteristics combine to make the ensemble's performances both aural and visual. While playing in Europe in 1969, five hundred instruments were used.[2]

History[edit]

Members of what was to become the Art Ensemble performed together under various band names in the mid-sixties, releasing their first album, Sound, as the Roscoe Mitchell Sextet in 1966. The Sextet included saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, trumpeter Lester Bowie, and bassist Malachi Favors. For the next year, they played as the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble. In 1967, they were joined by fellow AACM members Joseph Jarman (saxophone) and Phillip Wilson (drums) and recorded for Nessa Records.

All of the musicians were multi-instrumentalists. Jarman and Mitchell's primary instruments were alto and tenor saxophone, respectively, but they played other saxophones (from the small sopranino to the large bass saxophone), and the flute and clarinet. In addition to trumpet, Bowie played flugelhorn, cornet, shofar, and conch shells. Favors added touches of banjo and bass guitar. Most of them dabbled in piano, synthesizer, and other keyboards.

In 1969, Wilson left the group to join Paul Butterfield's band. The remaining group travelled to Paris,[3] where they became known as the Art Ensemble of Chicago. The impetus for the name change came from a French promoter who added "of Chicago" to their name for descriptive purposes, but the new name stuck because band members felt that it better reflected the cooperative nature of the group. In Paris, the ensemble was based at the Théâtre des Vieux Colombier [4] and they recorded for the Freedom and BYG labels. They also recorded Comme à la radio with Brigitte Fontaine and Areski Belkacem but without a drummer until percussionist Don Moye became a member of the group in 1970. During that year, they recorded the albums Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass and Les Stances a Sophie with singer Fontella Bass, who was Lester Bowie's wife. The latter was the soundtrack from the French movie of the same title.

Two years later, the group returned to the U.S. They came to prominence with two albums on Atlantic Records: Bap-Tizum and Fanfare for the Warriors. Members of the group decided to restrict their appearances together to allow each player to pursue other musical interests. The Art Ensemble released more than twenty studio albums and several live albums between 1972 and 2004.

In 1993, Jarman retired to concentrate on Zen and Aikido. Bowie died of liver cancer in 1999, and the group continued as a trio until 2003, when Jarman returned. In January 2004, Favors died during the recording of Sirius Calling. The group was joined in late 2004 by trumpeter Corey Wilkes and bassist Jaribu Shahid, who recorded the live album Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City (2006) on Pi Recordings.

Ensemble members embrace the performance art aspects of their concerts, believing that they allow the band to move beyond the limits of jazz. Their operating motto is "Great Black Music: Ancient to the Future", which allows them to explore a variety of musical styles and influences; the band's appearance on stage also reflects this motto. As Jarman describes it,

"So what we were doing with that face painting was representing everyone throughout the universe, and that was expressed in the music as well. That's why the music was so interesting. It wasn't limited to Western instruments, African instruments, or Asian instruments, or South American instruments, or anybody's instruments.[5]

Discography[edit]

Title Year Label
Sound - Roscoe Mitchell Sextet 1966 Delmark
Old/Quartet - Roscoe Mitchell 1967 Nessa
Numbers 1 & 2 - Lester Bowie 1967 Nessa
Early Combinations - Art Ensemble 1967 Nessa
Congliptious - Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble 1968 Nessa
A Jackson in Your House 1969 BYG Actuel
Tutankhamun 1969 Freedom
The Spiritual 1969 Freedom
People in Sorrow 1969 Nessa
Message to Our Folks 1969 BYG-Actuel
Reese and the Smooth Ones 1969 BYG-Actuel
Eda Wobu 1969 JMY
Comme à la radio 1970 Saravah
Certain Blacks 1970 America
Go Home 1970 Galloway
Chi-Congo 1970 Paula
Les Stances a Sophie 1970 Nessa
Live in Paris 1970 Freedom
Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass 1970 America
Phase One 1971 America
Live at Mandell Hall 1972 Delmark
Bap-Tizum 1972 Atlantic
Fanfare for the Warriors 1973 Atlantic
Kabalaba 1974 AECO
Nice Guys 1978 ECM
Live in Berlin 1979 West Wind
Full Force 1980 ECM
Urban Bushmen 1980 ECM
Among the People 1980 Praxis
The Complete Live in Japan 1984 DIW
The Third Decade 1984 ECM
Naked 1986 DIW
Ancient to the Future 1987 DIW
The Alternate Express 1989 DIW
Art Ensemble of Soweto 1990 DIW
America - South Africa 1990 DIW
Thelonious Sphere Monk with Cecil Taylor 1990 DIW
Dreaming of the Masters Suite 1990 DIW
Live at the 6th Tokyo Music Joy 1990 DIW
Fundamental Destiny with Don Pullen 1991 AECO
Salutes the Chicago Blues Tradition 1993 AECO
Coming Home Jamaica 1996 Atlantic
Urban Magic 1997 Musica
Tribute to Lester 2001 ECM
Reunion 2003 Around jazz / Il Manifesto
The Meeting 2003 Pi
Sirius Calling 2004 Pi
Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City 2006 Pi

Further reading[edit]

  • Lewis, George. A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music. University of Chicago Press, 2008.
  • Shipton, Alyn. A New History of Jazz. London: Continuum, 2001.

Films[edit]

  • 1982 - Live From the Jazz Showcase: The Art Ensemble of Chicago (directed by William J Mahin, the University of Illinois at Chicago). Filmed at Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase in Chicago, November 1, 1981.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cook, Richard (2005). Richard Cook's Jazz Encyclopedia. London: Penguin Books. p. 21. ISBN 0-141-00646-3. 
  2. ^ Jost, Ekkehard (1975). Free Jazz (Studies in Jazz Research 4). Universal Edition. p. 177. 
  3. ^ Wilmer, Valerie (1977). As Serious As Your Life: The Story of the New Jazz. Quartet. pp. 122–123. 
  4. ^ Jost, Ekkehard (1975). Free Jazz (Studies in Jazz Research 4). Universal Edition. p. 167. 
  5. ^ Joseph Jarman interview Archived March 20, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]