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AACM Great Black Music Ensemble: Live at The Currency Exchange, Volume 1

Mark Corroto By

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A Power Stronger Than Itself (The University of Chicago press) is the title of George Lewis' history of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). Published in 2008, its 676 pages tell the story of the first 43 years of the Chicago South Side collective that gave birth to musicians like Henry Threadgill, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton, Jack DeJohnette, Lester Bowie and the members of The Art Ensemble of Chicago. While history chronicles events of the past, a live recording such as this 2018 concert at The Currency Exchange Cafe embodies the AACM slogan, taking the ancient to the future.

Under the direction of saxophonist Ernest Dawkins (New Horizons Ensemble, Chicago 12, Ethnic Heritage Ensemble) these 10 AACM musicians teach without preaching (or is that preach without teaching?) on an illuminating, all-inclusive set of improvised music with servings of bebop, swing, reggae, funk, and blues. In other words the music of Africa, African-America and the Caribbean. Opening with percussion and bells, Maggie Brown intones various mantras of the AACM and reminds us the miracle and mystery of jazz improvisation is built upon cooperation to create harmonization. As the music builds behind her voice, it becomes nearly impossible to sit still. She tell us "we live this music, we are this art," and truly that is the essence of any great music be it classical or punk rock.

Elsewhere the music grows organically. "Great Black Music" is built percussively much like an Ethnic Heritage Ensemble composition, and "Peace," "In The," and "Way Out East" remind you of the percussive explorations of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Saalik Ziyad's vocals fuel the "Great Black Music," and "Reprise" chants with vocalese and scat singing that would have made Sun Ra smile back in the day. I'm guessing "Bells" is served up as the encore here. The minimalist percussion cortège is a solemn meditation, and fitting as the exit procession for this lively performance.

Track Listing: Ancient To The Future Power Stronger Than Itself; Great Black Music; Vision Of Possibilities; Reprise Of GBME; The Call; Peace; In The; East; Way out East; Bells.

Personnel: Art Turk Burton: congas; Jeremiah Collier: drums; Saalik Ziyad: keyboard, effects, vocals; Micah Collier: bass; Jerome Croswell: trumpet; Ben Lamar Gay: cornet; Ed House: tenor saxophone; Adam Zanolini: soprano saxophone, flute; Taalib Din Ziyad: flute, vocals; Ernest Khabeer Dawkins: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone.

Title: Live at The Currency Exchange, Volume 1 | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: AACM Chicago Productions

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