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Art Ensemble Of Chicago: The Sixth Decade: From Paris to Paris


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Art Ensemble Of Chicago: The Sixth Decade: From Paris to Paris
Having first come to international prominence in Paris at the end of the '60s, it seems fitting for the Rogue Art imprint to celebrate the Art Ensemble Of Chicago's progression into their sixth decade in the same city. This double CD documents the performance of an extended AEC at the Sons d'hiver Festival in February 2019. Only reedman & composer Roscoe Mitchell and drummer Famoudou Don Moye survive from the original quintet but, rather than accept this as a limitation, they have embraced the opportunity, inviting a slew of younger colleagues to join them, to enlarge the group's palette to orchestral proportions.

Many of the personnel were heard on We Are On The Edge (Pi, 2019), as was some of the material, especially on the second disc. The AEC always had an expansive vision of Great Black Music which could encompass anything they wished, and the band here covers a lot of territory, taking in contemporary classical, chamber, improv, African grooves, poetry and funk. With 19 musicians, individual space is at a premium and the emphasis rests firmly on the collective and the realization of Mitchell's wide-ranging compositions, some of which date back to the early '80s.

The most prominent voices are, well.... the voices, namely the operatic vocals of Rodolfo Cordova-Lebron and Erina Newkirk, and the slam poetry of Moor Mother (Camae Ayewa). Otherwise pianist Brett Carson enjoys an arrestingly fragmented and glinting interlude during "Variations and Sketches from the Bamboo Terrace," while the volatile yet vulnerable duet between French trombonist Simon Sieger (also a fine pianist, who has played in small groups with both Mitchell and Moye) and Mitchell on sopranino saxophone on "Introduction to Cards" is one of the set's absolute highlights. Mitchell's acerbic reeds can also be discerned during the ensemble swirl of "We Are On The Edge" and "I Greet You With Open Arms," but he doesn't put himself out front.

"Leola," written for Mitchell's late stepmother, and first aired on Nine To Get Ready (ECM, 1997), opens the program with a somber sustained chord before mixing together many of the elements which feature elsewhere—a pointillist background against which Moor Mother expounds, a brief operatic unison, a string quartet and a brass choir, all balanced in controlled stasis. That unclassifiable mélange coheres around an affectingly wistful melody. Percussion workouts were a distinctive characteristic of the AEC, and Moye and a foursome of African percussionists ensure they are fully represented here too, on cuts such as "Ritual" and "Jigiba / I Feel Like Dancing."

There are two improvisations. The first, which appears early on, is an exercise in restraint as long tones glide and overlap, with Nicole Mitchell's flute at its most forthright. "Odwalla," the only out and out jazzy piece here, serves as the customary set-closer and a vehicle for Mitchell's laconic introductions to the entire band, gilded by pithy blurts from his alto saxophone and short incidental vignettes from each of the crew.

The second improvisation, probably an encore, closes the album. It begins with the two vocalists balletically intertwining before one of three bassists undergirds a riff-fuelled shuffle over which everyone pontificates. The group exit the stage with Sieger's trombone and the trumpet of Hugh Ragin indulging in a playful pas de deux, giving the feeling that this music could carry on forever, as surely the audience must have wished it would.

Track Listing

CD 1:
Leola; Introduction to Cards; Cards; Improvisation One; Ritual "Great Black Music"; Kumpa / Stormy Weather; New Coming; Jigiba / I Feel Like Dancing; Bulawayo Korokokoko.
CD 2:
We Are on the Edge; Variations and Sketches from the Bamboo Terrace; I Greet you with Open Arms; Funky AECO; Improvisation Two.


Art Ensemble Of Chicago
band / ensemble / orchestra
Roscoe Mitchell
Moor Mother
poet / spoken word
Hugh Ragin
Silvia Bolognesi
bass, acoustic
Junius Paul
bass, electric
Jaribu Shahid
bass, acoustic
Eddy Kwon
Jean Cook
Additional Instrumentation

Simon Sieger: trombone, tuba; Roco Córdova: vocals (bass); Erina Newkirk: vocals (soprano); Dudu Kouaté: percussions; Enoch Williamson: percussions: Babu Atiba: percussions; Doussou Touré: percussions; Steed Cowart - (direction).

Album information

Title: The Sixth Decade: From Paris to Paris | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Rogue Art


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