Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Art Ensemble of Chicago

The Art Ensemble of Chicago is an avant-garde jazz ensemble that grew out of Chicago's AACM in the late 1960s. The group continues to tour and record through 2006, despite the deaths of two of the founding members.

The Art Ensemble is notable for its integration of musical styles spanning jazz's entire history and for their multi-instrumentalism, especially the use of what they termed "little instruments" in addition to the traditional jazz lineup; "little instruments" can include bicycle horns, bells, birthday party noisemakers, wind chimes, and a vast array of percussion instruments (including found objects). The group also uses costumes and face paint in performance. These characteristics combine to make the ensemble's performances as much a visual spectacle as an aural one, with each musician playing from behind a large array of drums, bells, gongs, and other instruments. When playing in Europe in 1969, the group was using more than 500 instruments.

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 Maghostut, who over the next year went on to play together as the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble. In 1967 they were joined by fellow AACM members Joseph Jarman (saxophone) and Phillip Wilson (drums), and made a number of recordings for Nessa.

As noted above, the musicians were all active multi-instrumentalists: Jarman and Mitchell's primary instruments were alto and tenor saxes, respectively, but they played many other saxophones (ranging from the tiny sopranino to the large bass), flutes and clarinets. In addition to trumpet, Bowie played flugelhorn, cornet, shofar and conch shells. Favors added touches of banjo and bass guitar. Over the years, most of the musicians dabbled on piano, synthesizer and other keyboards.

n 1970 the ensemble recorded Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass and Les Stances a Sophie with singer Fontella Bass, then Lester Bowie's wife. The latter was the soundtrack from the French movie of the same title. Bass' vocals, backed by the powerful pulsating push of the band has allowed the "Theme De YoYo" to remain an underground cult classic ever since.

The ensemble returned to the United States in 1972, and the quintet of Mitchell, Jarman, Bowie, Favors and Moye remained static until 1993. Upon their return to the States, they came to prominence with two major releases on Atlantic Records: Bap-Tizum and Fanfare for the Warriors. Members of the group made the decision to restrict their appearances together, allowing each player to pursue other musical interests. It seems likely that this has contributed to the longevity of the ensemble. Despite the self-imposed limitations the Art Ensemble managed to release more than 20 studio recordings and several live albums between 1972 and 2004.

The makeup of the ensemble changed in 1993, when Jarman retired from the group to focus on his practice of Zen and Aikido. Bowie died of liver cancer in 1999, and the group continued as a trio (featuring a number of guest artists in their performances) until 2003, when Jarman rejoined the ensemble. In January 2004 Favors Maghostut died suddenly during the recording of Sirius Calling. The group was joined in late 2004 by trumpeter Corey Wilkes and bassist Jaribu Shahid, who recorded the 2 CD live release 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 strict limits of "jazz". 



Art Ensemble Of Chicago – Les Stances A Sophie 1970













01. Theme De Yoyo
02. Theme De Celine
03. Variations Sur Un Theme De Monteverdi I
04. Variations Sur Un Theme De Monteverdi II
05. Proverbes I
06. Theme Amour Universel
07. Theme Libre
08. Proverbes II

Soundtrack of “Les Stances A Sophie”. Filmed in Paris in 1970, this fully-subtitled film features killer music, groovy clothes and post-1968 revolutionary ideals. This super-rare film is now perhaps best known for its soundtrack from the legendary Art Ensemble of Chicago (who also feature in the film). The album features the epic ‘Theme de Yoyo’, the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s finest ever moment featuring the soaring vocals of Fontella Bass and the super=heavy Funk drums of then current newcomer to the Art Ensemble Don Moye. The Art Ensemble of Chicago were living in Europe in 1970 when the film was made along with a host of other U.S. Jazz ‚migr‚ such as Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman and more.






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