Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Art Ensemble of Chicago: A Jackson In Your House, Message to Our Folks, Reese and the Smooth Ones

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

For those interested in the early days of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, these are good times. Nessa Records recently followed up its 2011 release of Roscoe Mitchell’s previously unheard, pre-AEC gem Before There Was Sound (1966) with Early Combinations, a selection of recordings originally included in the landmark set Art Ensemble 1967/68. This Charly Art Ensemble set collects three albums the band recorded in Paris for the French BYG label in 1969. As historical a document as it is, shot through with an outspoken ’60s vibe, the music sounds remarkably fresh.

It can be argued that the drummer-less Art Ensemble featured here, following Phillip Wilson’s departure and before Famoudou Don Moye’s arrival, is the band in its purest state. To be sure, the AEC would go on to record greater albums, but over the years it became a bit predictable and, not unlike the Beatles, more a collection of individuals than a unified band. The BYG recordings, sponsored by Actuel magazine, contain music that is as spontaneous as it is thematically rich. It features some of the deepest and loveliest playing by saxophonists Mitchell and Joseph Jarman, trumpeter Lester Bowie and bassist extraordinaire Malachi Favors, as well as some of the band’s most antic and atmospheric sounds.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published