From the mid-1960s through the early years of this century, the Art Ensemble of Chicago crafted elements of free jazz into an ensemble personality that brought it extensive exposure. Often, as much attention went to the band’s costumes and makeup as to its wide range of influences from all eras of jazz and music of Africa, Asia, Latin America and other parts of the world. Apart from their primary instruments, the five musicians played an array of brass, reed, percussion and stringed instruments. The choreography of employing that arsenal could give an Art Ensemble concert a sort of neo-vaudeville atmosphere. Although they sometimes allowed the sideshow to obscure it, musicianship was at the heart of their best performances. A piece from the Berlin Jazz Festival in the fall of 1991 is an example.
The musicians are Lester Bowie, trumpet (1941-1999); Joseph Jarman, tenor saxophone; Roscoe Mitchell, alto saxophone; Malachi Favors Maghostut, bass (1927-2004); Famoudou Don Moye, drums. The piece is titled, “New York Is Full of Lonely People.” The video begins with a tune-up and a few second of silence.
Following Malachi Favors’ death in 2004, trumpeter Corey Wilkes and bassist Jaribu Shahid joined the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and the band recorded a new album.