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Art Ensemble of Chicago: Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City: Live at Iridium

Troy Collins By

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It seemed that the tireless Art Ensemble of Chicago might have reached its denouement with the passing of Malachi Favors in 2004. Coupled with Favors' demise, Lester Bowie's death in 1999, six years after Joseph Jarman first resigned, seemed prophetic. Undaunted, the remaining original members soldiered on, and for the first time in their history, they recruited replacements for their fallen comrades.

Trumpeter Corey Wilkes, a sanguine young Chicagoan with a tenacious spirit, takes up the challenge of filling Lester Bowie's position. Bowie, the most influential avant garde jazz trumpet player since Don Cherry, casts a long shadow over any potential replacement. Wilkes' brash timbre, assertively expressive and filled with youthful vigor, never mimics Bowie's iconic penchant for sonic abstraction. Filling his phrases with terse linear runs and cyclical melodic variations, Wilkes proves his mettle with incendiary performances of ravishing harmonic invention.

Jaribu Shahid is well known for his many years as sideman to multi-instrumentalist Roscoe Mitchell in The Sound Ensemble. A dependable accompanist in both inside and outside situations, his inclusion here is both logical and expected. The reinvigorated Ensemble recently enjoyed a week-long residency at New York's Iridium, where this live concert was expertly recorded. Basking in the glow of an enthusiastic crowd, the Ensemble plays in an unrestrained fashion, exploring four decades' worth of tunes that veer from esoteric to primal.

The playlist is evenly split between new and old material, but Mitchell is credited for most of these compositions; three collectively written pieces premiere here for the first time. "The Morning Mist," "On The Mountain" and "Red Sand Green Water" are all free-flowing meditations in the classic AACM tradition. Delicate pointillist accents and pensive, lyrical excursions expand into tumultuous climaxes of blistering group improvisation full of swirling, acerbic horns and churning rhythmic undercurrents.

Delving into the Ensemble's varied back catalog, the group unleashes the rough and tumble "Song For Charles." On the quieter side, "Slow Tenor and Bass" is a somber miniature, while the percussive vamp of "The J Song" is a sublime, mid-tempo ethnic meditation. "Song For My Sister" swings majestically, given a judiciously expanded treatment—in contrast to the brawny funk workout of "Big Red Peaches."

Non-Cognitive Aspects documents the Art Ensemble of Chicago forging ahead, despite the loss of Lester Bowie and Malachi Favors, beginning their fourth decade with the same unflagging commitment as they began their first.


Track Listing: Disc One: Song For My Sister; The Morning Mist; Song For Charles; On The Mountain; Big Red Peaches; Odwalla. Disc Two: Erika; Malachi; The J Song; Red Sand Green Water; Slow Tenor And Bass; Odwalla.

Personnel: Roscoe Mitchell: sopranino, soprano, alto and tenor saxophone, flute, piccolo flute, percussion; Joseph Jarman: sopranino, alto and tenor saxophone flute, bass flute, percussion, vocal; Corey Wilkes: trumpet, pocket trumpet, flugelhorn, percussion; Jaribu Shahid: acoustic bass, electric bass, percussion; Don Moye: drums, African drums, congas, bongo drums.

Title: Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City: Live at Iridium | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Pi Recordings

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