They formed, of course, in the American city that constitutes part of their band moniker. But this 1970 album by the Art Ensemble Of Chicago, re-released on Soul Jazz, was in fact recorded in Paris, the four main AEOC members having formed part of the late '60s exodus that also brought to France Archie Shepp, Don Cherry and Anthony Braxton.
The location is significant because Les Stances A Sophiea soundtrack for a 1971 New Wave film of the same title, though the fact that the album pre-dates the film accounts for its stand-alone strengthis a record they would surely never have made had they stayed home. That's true in the most literal sense, because it was in France that they befriended the film's director, Moshe Mizrahi. But it's also true in broader artistic terms, the European location shining through most explicitly in the two tracks inspired by Italian Baroque composer Claudio Monteverdi, "Variations Sur Un Theme De Monteverdi i" and "ii."
Yet Western classical music formed only a relatively small part of the AEOC's outlandish vision, self-defined simply as Great Black Music: Ancient To Future. More important was indigenous African music (every member plays percussion as well as their main instrument, and some are pictured on the front cover in trademark tribal facepaint) and jazz. "Theme Libre" and "Theme De Celine" both contain the sort of free jazz freak-outs for which the Ensemble are probably best known; elsewhere the influence of blues and older jazz Forms can be felt, as well as the more obviously cinematic, low-key atmospherics of "Theme Amour Universal" and "Proverbes i."
Easily the most immediate track, however, is opener "Theme De Yoyo," where the band is joined by vocalist (and wife of trumpeter Lester Bowie) Fontella Bass, she of soul classic "Rescue Me." As the only tune previously easily available, some fans will already know it as a minor cult classicbut surely no amount of familiarity can dull the potency of these nine minutes of rapturous soul jazz.
Track Listing: Theme De Yoyo; Theme De Celine; Variations Sur Un Theme De Monteverdi i; Variations Sur Un Theme De Monteverdi ii; Proverbes i; Theme Amour Universal; Theme Libre; Proverbes ii.
Personnel: Roscoe Mitchell: soprano, alto and bass saxophones, clarinet, flute, percussion; Joseph Jarman: tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, flut, percussion; Lester Bowie: trumpet, flugelhorn, percussion; Malachi Favors: acoustic bass, electric bass, percussion; Don
Moye: drums; Fontella Bass: vocals, piano.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.