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November 2006

Art Ensemble of Chicago
Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City: Live at the Iridium
Pi Recordings

The deaths of trumpeter Lester Bowie, in 1999, and bassist Malachi Favors, in 2004, have reduced the legendary Art Ensemble of Chicago to just three original members: drummer Don Moye and saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman. The Bowie- and Jarman-less Tribute to Lester (2003) proved the avant-garde act could still operate with a diminished staff. But, as of this new double-disc Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City: Live at the Iridium, the group has, for the first time since 1970, added to its ranks with trumpeter Corey Wilkes and bassist Jaribu Shahid; an expansion that suggests that the core trio is most comfortable as a quintet.

Recorded during a six-night stand in the spring of 2004—just months after Favors passed away—Non-Cognitive finds Art Ensemble eschewing its scary-funny edge in favor of a more ritualistic take on free improv. Thus, even the inevitable bang-on-a-hubcap tomfoolery has an almost ambient effect, as if Mitchell and Co. realize that their transgressions are now tradition—and should come across as such. Or perhaps it’s just that Bowie and Favors’ replacements are more traditional players. Either way, these easy-going performances may not channel the dearly departed, but they sure are nice to come home to.

Originally published in November 2006
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