With the recent passings of founding members Lester Bowie and Malachi Favors Maghostut, Art Ensemble of Chicago's reissues take on new resonance. With 1974's Kabalaba , the Art Ensemble performs with Muhal Richard Abrams at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival before an apparently appreciative and enthusiastic audience. With the elder musician present, the Art Ensemble more sincerely bulldozes the borders while downplaying its signature humor and theatrics.
The continuous performance begins with a segment called "Kabalaba-Bees." Several of the musicians buzz and blow with Abrams entering with a reflective melody at the end that transitions into "Interlude," a beautiful piano, windchime, and percussion piece. Warm alto flute leads into "Kaba Song," a soporific excursion that abruptly switches focus to a muscular Maghostut solo. Suddenly, Abrams and Moye jump in, with the trio following the pianist's Bud Powellish lead. The whole ensemble joins for the extended "Theme for Sco," a high energy workout driven first by Jarman on soprano sax. With the rhythm section showering sparks, the soprano sprays gasoline. Bowie makes a brief appearance over Abrams jagged spinning piano line, then Mitchell stretches the tenor with occasional musical comments from Bowie.
Abrams' whirlpool sets the stage for a bass sax solo accompanied by shouts, whistles, and rattles. A Moye tour de force follows with "Sun Precondition One." Maghostut and Mitchell offer a thoughtful "Interlude." A hornet's nest of tenor unfolds on "Improvisation A2," while Bowie goes acapella on "Mal's Delight." "Kabalaba Speaks" takes the band through a group improvisation with all voices in full song.
The sound on this 30 year old recording occasionally veers between muddy and thin, but the sounds burn with the fire of the moment.
Personnel: Lester Bowie, trumpet and percussion; Malachi Favors Maghostut, bass and percussion; Joseph Jarman, alto, tenor, sopranino saxophone, bass clarinet, flute, percussion; Roscoe Mitchell, alto, tenor and sopranino saxophones, flute, and percussion; Famoudou Don Moye, Sun Percussion: gongs, whistles, bells, congas, bongoes, bike horns, timbales; Muhal Richard Abrams, piano