A very special one this! Recorded in Paris in 69, drummer Don Moye is absent here as is the presence of a full drum kit. Despite Moye’s unfortunate truancy, this brilliant record is amongst my favourite from Art Ensmble so far, featuring the sublime “The 9th Room”.
First up on the A-side is Tutankhamun, a track i don’t get on so well with. It starts brilliantly as Bowie fires up the coals “tawkin’ shit” if you will, dramaturgical rollicking deranged dune preacher (very convincing) moaning madness & gibbering jargon in that classic mischievous toon-clad manner of his whilst the rest a’ the crew intone/chant & bells drag over the sand banks on some eremite pilgrimage to a mythic oasis. It is a marvellous piece of sonic theatre.
Next comes Malachi’s famous Tutankhamun bass composition, that you may have heard on other Art Ensemble & AEOC affiliated recordings. It’s a very novel pattern that eschews the conventional time formula & the other musicians syncopate in tandem.
a long bowed passage proceeds, full of torpor, tragedy, claudication & rolling down inclines lolling all over the place dragging weighty impedimenta. It’s a bit lost for me, vague & rambling with an exaggerated mournfulness or even elegiac sentiment… mourning the recently demised Pharaoh, slow, low & weepy, uncertain, or something!? Feels a lot like grandiose film music for an epic trying to capture sorrow or loss.
More low level fooling & miscellaneous interjection & interplay with nothing really solid or substantial. In terms of Arts Ensemble standards i would say this is pretty bland. However, regarding structure & layout this track (when taken in it’s entirety) completely confounds compositional convention with it’s wonderfully random & seemingly unrelated arrangements & utter impropriety with succession/transition & conclusion (abrupt termination). It’s lawless & unabashedly flouting of just about every structural custom & seemingly uncaring about completion/definition. For me though, aside the mesmerising opening sequence (which I would of loved to have gone on longer), Tutankhamun, despite it’s obvious atmosphere & experimentation is not that memorable.
Side B, and The 9th Room” (composed by Roscoe) which may just actually be my favourite AEOC piece yet! Now that’s really saying sumthin’ , but this phenomenally endearing number may well take it. Malachi’s bass “walks” through the entire tune, a mid-tempo strut with lashings of panache in it’s stride. I have always particularly admired & revelled in Favours bass walking. There’s an energy or more accurately manner that’s critically dope/phat & is transposed by vibe rather than any technical volition. Pure character seeping through. This track has to be the delta of Favour’s bass-swagger, makes ya purse ya lips & squint it’s so damn good. The loop/arrangement essentially has four phases that keep encircling, but of course with constant modification within the framework. Funnily enough, after the track is finished I can quite literally put the needle straight back on the record & listen through again, it’s that good.
Over this, the rest of the boys just tear it up. Each is given a spotlight/priority on his instrument whilst the others careen through the ever alternating stash of “little instruments” & percussion plethora. Exceptional contributions from everybody, lapsing in & out of traditional/seriousness & raving astringent atonality & utter flippancy. Classic, spectacular, timeless!
I think there are three separate editions of this LP, a French, US & Japanese version, all with different sleeve designs. So it’s quite prevalent, plenty about & a CD version was definitely issued at some point. Don’t think a current/available edition is in circulus, some damn fool better do sumthin bout’ that!!!
Label – Freedom/Trio Records
Rekd – 1969