Tag Archives: Art Ensemble of Chicago

Roscoe Mitchell-Bells for the South Side:

Last month 2015 (huh?). c-c-celebrated savant & seasoned Free/Avant Jazz colossus Roscoe Mitchell (acting here as a performer, composer, conductor, situational stimulant, protagonist placement, conceptualist) leads an inimitable cabal of barely plausible super-cretins into mythic metamorph & medley. the occasion? The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (that’s AACM to you cuddles) 50th anniversary. Location – Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, basement stage & exhibition area (so three totally separate & varying performances, captured here on two discs). The label – ECM Records…. Continue reading Roscoe Mitchell-Bells for the South Side:

Art Ensemble Of Chicago – Chi Congo LP

AEOC-Chi Congo LP

Here’s yet another fantastic display of stringent pyromania from the maverick Chicago collective & their first-class convulsive bedlam & eccentric Jazz/African/Avant-Garde medley. The album sounds to me like one track/take, that’s split over both sides of the LP but is noted as four separate pieces on the sleeve.

The A-side unfurls with lively African orientated percussion drenched clamour but proceeds into quite a subdued almost diffident juncture (certainly for the kind of inflammatory & exceedingly idiosyncratic ebullience that AEOC were so famed at compelling), messing more with sounds & atmospheric experimenting, seeming somewhat an instigation or warm-up.

Continue reading Art Ensemble Of Chicago – Chi Congo LP

Art Ensemble Of Chicago-Tutankhamun LP


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

The Art Ensemble Of Chicago – Reese & the smooth ones CD


another extension in the insane legacy of AEOC votives (minus drummer Don Moye who had yet to join). this recording has two long trax, probably a single performance sundered, a familiar format that constitutes the majority of their recordings. the first track/half is a bit of a dud really. a pretty interesting horn-pattern preludes but quickly leads to rather aimless drizzling’s of temperamental incongruent jargon & blithering arcane litanies. i’m waiting for this paltering to subside & the real shit to kick in, or something that jolts my attention, & then it’s been over ten minutes already man & the commotion has yet to kindle fully. it’s not bad, but for me it’s unmemorable indirect cantering, i still can’t remember anything from this song despite recursive listening’s, it’s just that unimpressionable. anyway, matters really start to conflagrate in the second half/track two. with the spirit world now in real time we have another massively noisy deranged & uncontrollable series of sonic scuffles, gigantic horn combat, crashing & banging, shouting & scraping, clanging, tingling, spack-magic Off-Road free-for-all foray. very noisy, manic & acutely ictus oscillating energy expulsions including the earliest Stridor/Harsh Noise i am aware of? which I believe is the lowest notes of a sax under immense distortion duress. As usual this extraordinary group of musical visionaries explode in incredible excess of energy, ideas & uncontrollable improvisational acme overlap. crazy & wild!

Label- Actuel/BYG

Art Ensemble Of Chicago-Live At Mandel Hall


Rapidly closing the holes in the AEOC back catalogue here. I recently picked up this brilliant disc. It’s been fractioned into four parts by name, but runs as a single consecutive take (76.24 minutes) of their 1972 live performance at Mandel Hall University in Chicago. It’s an especially excellent AEOC title & pretty much covers their colossal wealth of styles & abilities superbly well, from the lampooning pomp Jazz, multi-dimensional Avant-Garde, Afrocentric themes & patterns & of course total shock-wave blow-out oblivion hifalutin histrionics.
Ordaining with indomitable bombast, rowdy rock-esque & repetitive strike group syncopated stabbing. in seconds the components start fragmenting & free improvising giving way to a massive balkanization of free-spirited chaos & noise. An abrupt coordinated halt ambushes after about four minutes, ushering in hella’ larking from Bowie & the boys. This progresses to one of those wonderful cartoonish, classical Jazz piss-takes that AEOC do so well, with a levity, humour & exaggeration, but also, marvellous musicianship. The following 20 minutes is more sedated, travelling through a myriad of seasons, moods & styles with tons of different instrumentations, coacting, soloing in exploratory expounding, escorted by a constant variegation of bells, chimes, small percussion etc.

At about 34.30 the miraculous forces of molten omnipotence are summoned, this is the section I really want to focus on. It’s one of the most staggeringly extreme & strenuous blow-out, hell for leather, freak out episodes in Free Jazz history. Yes, EVER! These lot are renowned for their potency in sustained opalescent mayhem, but this paroxysm is a particularly profound performance in the paranormal. Perhaps the primary detonator here is Don Moye, who flails with such an intensity, insistence & preposterous peremptory percolation, divine dexterity & almost unimaginable macro innovations that JUST KEEP COMING, not to omit outrageous stamina & log splitting power surging & fluxing in a steady column of stupefying incendiary overspill, gushing gouts of ridiculously creative pyrocosm & super invention iridescence. It’s like his life depends on this performance, & somehow the ascendency & urgency keeps spiking. also his pedal work, punching through with these gigantic skin-splitters, altering the angles & trajectory, it is supremely impressive, glorious & outstandingly exhilarating with insane strength & extended physical vigour, but this inexplicable ebullition to me clarifies him as one of the greatest & hardest drummers of all time that mingled so many facets of the apparatus (stamina/diversity/distinction/speed/endurance) into one giant fizzing comet of irrecusable reification. Now that’s just the drums…can you imagine the combined hysteria prepotency of the four remaining members expostulating, simultaneously over this? Witness the impossible & be accosted by some of the most unthinkable, indefinable, paranormal pummelling & thermo-nova shock-shroud that swirls beyond the criteria of words. Perhaps AEOC at their most manic & effusive, sensationalist inferno, wit’ hella hollering n’ caterwauling just to shimmer & carbonize that bit harder. Splendacious, & this is from a disc 55 years + later, being present in the venue during such radiant turbulence must have been some serious out of body bollocks!!!!!!!!
After this cleansing tumult, the new galaxy is explored with percussive profusion, bell-showers & much larking on The Little Instruments. An African energy with abundant Avant-Garde experimentalisation & free-form flourishes with masses of bass improvisation from Favors. There’s a final twist with Moye laying down some hard breaks before the finish.
Proper sonic sorcery! these cats were just fuckin somethin’ else man!!!!!!! Lovely cover collage as well.

Rekd: 1972
Label: Delmark

Art Ensemble Of Chicago-a jackson in your house/message to our folks:

AEOC-a jackson in your


Good Grief! The Art Ensemble Of Chicago? These brothas’ really freak the far-out factor with the most thespian fulminations & flotted fanklingings. The culprits responsible for this delirium are Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Lester Bowie, Malachi Favors & Famoudou Don Moye (who had yet to join the junta & is not on these recordings), generally commanding Sax, Trumpet, Bass & flexile degrees of percussion on a myriad of implements & objects which also includes a full drum-kit. But this rabid rumpus also boasts endless gongs, log-drums, sirens, bells & chimes, conga’s, cymbals, whistles, hand horns, maracas & other self-fashioned devices (often termed “the little instruments”). The reeds are also constantly alternated, Soprano, Alto, Bass for the sax along with Clarinets Flutes, Oboe, Flugelhorns & an almost endless extensions of wind-power insistent on perdurable permutation & panoply. Vibes & even an electric guitar are also visible briefly, I suppose anything that can express sound & fall in2 their cache.

The boys also get comic, impersonations, theatrical over-reactions, shouts & ululations, hollers, hoots & howling’s, cantillations & intonations, poetry & piss-taking caricature. & lets get on that piss-taking. Don’t for a second dubiate on the tre-fucking-mendous musical prowess, conception & application of these monoliths of megrim, but understand that they exercise a ceaseless irreverence, intemperate ludic frolicking & humungous humour through-out their performance/metamancy. any accusation of inept musicality/flawed virtuosity would be inadmissible/instantly crushed, but fuming flippancy & severe sonic satire are reckless through much of the units recordings.

With such replete resources & such expert musicianship that operates with premeditated patterns/syncopations as well as predominantly autoschediasmic excursion, traditional time-coherent frames & complete free-fall void-exploration it’s obviously going to be near impossible to suitably summarize this astonishing olio of Avant-Jazz (well shit I gotta’ get something to work off). Deeply diverse & divagating constantly, you get to that fantastic & rare position where you have no idea what’s coming next, sonically, conceptually & even instrumentally.

So isolating some of the merits, for all us User-Hostile severity-junkies out there, these motherfuckers will NOT disappoint. When they are in that gear, which they frequently position, you are assured of having your head trisected & it’s contents scattered through out the four corners. They play some of the fastest, most corybantic & uncompromising smouldering deadly discursive horn harangue this side of the moon to terrorize & traumatize the senses to a state of collapse AT LENGTH! AEOC always had really’ really loud horns, the vigour with which they play, the mic placement or whatever, this is some strident stuff with an element of distortion that makes even the more um, “traditional”? segments an elevated joy to experience. These are definitely some of the loudest cats I have heard, certainly in comparison to other stuff at the time, the horns scream at a prepolleny I rarely here exerted by others. The levigating rapid-fire blow-outs is like watching two wild beasts fight, stupendously frenetic inconsolable sonic-epilepsy. As if Roscoe Mitchell wasn’t an arch bad-ass himself, he is now competing with Bowie & Jarman, stuck in the middle with percussion gnashing at your flanks as the masters battle for who is the most effusively-offensive will elate any User-Hostile die-hard. The lung power of these guys is extraordinary & there are no rules for these tantrums. The horns are often very bestial, like a shrieking chimpanzee or even mimicking industrial vehicles blaring horns before some cataclysmic collision. I detect a considerable inspiration from cartoons, Road Runner & Tom & Gerry, but that may not be a direct theme or intentional inclusion!? it could also be insisted that AEOC are the most Avant-Garde (in the original unadulterated meaning) of the lot. It’s difficult if not futile to think of another unit, certainly by my experience that can compete with the terrifically histrionic ridiculousness-recrudescence & rampancy that these dons consistently conjure. Discounting all the aureate, asperity, wildness & unpredictability of the music, you really need separate consideration to account for their profoundly theatrical construct. From costumes, face paint, poetry, African folklore & the absurd versatility available with such highly skilled multi-instrumentalists & their obvious immoderate intrepidity & complete disregard for audience safety or cogitation, they plough through frontiers that others only really nibble the edges of.

Another recurrent characteristic with this lot is there predilection for irreverence & parody, they play overly mundane or anaemic/generic styles with an excess of exaggeration playful pasquinade & blithe lampooning. substantial ridicule & further facetiousness is operated on “Get In Line” & “Old Time Religion”, with the military & ecclesial pedagoguery getting a basting.

It’s an irresistible formula. The depth of their individualism, their profound musicianship & the extremity of the operations shot into the clouds with a total indifference for reception or acceptance & the obvious kinetic roving mad synergy that they elevated in each other.

This CD combines two LP’s from the Actuel catalogue & is a magnificent starting cue for postulants wanting 2 entreat AEOC’s prodigious back-catalogue. It’s intensely varied sprawling nine tracks, quite rare for them as they mostly rolled out a single sprawl that would be sundered & put on a single 12” (I prefer this more compartmentalized track selection personally). If your into Noisecore or any mad Off-Road, far flung shit, this is essential listening/study. Beyond bad-ass.

Label: Actuel/BYG (CD re-release on Charly)