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Art Ensemble of Chicago: Sirius Calling

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Who knows what the future holds for the Art Ensemble? Losing Lester Bowie was bad enough. The death of bassist Malachi Favors in 2004 silenced half of the band’s incomparable rhythm section. It’s hard to imagine the group absent Favors’ melodic/percussive genius. According to the liner notes, Favors named this album-presumably the last he recorded with the band.

Composer credit on nine of the 14 tracks goes to “AEC,” meaning the bulk of the music is fully improvised. As always, thoughtful interaction characterizes the group’s extended improvs. On “Come on Y’all” reedists Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman finish each others’ sentences-the lines seem to share a single provenance, as if they were played by the right and left hands of a single eccentric keyboardist. Favors establishes a three-note arco motif, which he gradually expands microtonally and by the use of harmonics. While sax players are almost expected to inject a melismatic quality into their work, it’s less common to hear a bassist do it, and few do it as skillfully as Favors does here.

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