Of the many trenchant quotes in the April 2019 of JazzTimes, one in particular from bassist Jaribu Shahid sticks out for me. You can find it in Shaun Brady’s story on the Art Ensemble of Chicago, a group Shahid has been playing with since its original bass player, Malachi Favors, passed in 2004. “How long does it take to decide something is traditional?” he asks. “We’re talking about the 50th year, and jazz isn’t much more than 100 years old entirely.”
Shahid is referring to the Art Ensemble, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019—or at least its 50th anniversary of being called the Art Ensemble of Chicago (that name was adopted, interestingly enough, while the band was residing in Paris, but you’ll have to read the story for more on that). And he’s got a good point. You’ll still find people out there today who don’t regard the Art Ensemble as a fully legitimate part of the jazz tradition, and that makes no sense. Not only is the band’s longevity remarkable and its impact on jazz indisputable, but its collective-improv style is and has always been rooted in the music of New Orleans and its African antecedents.