10

The Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On The Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration

Mark Corroto By

Sign in to view read count
Seventy plus recordings and fifty years since the inception of The Art Ensemble Of Chicago. I mean the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble, its original name. Born of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), the band sojourned to Paris and soon changed its name to The Art Ensemble Of Chicago to reflect the corroborative process of its members. With the move an enduring quintet was formed with Mitchell, Famoudou Don Moye, Lester Bowie, Malachi Favors, and Joseph Jarman. What a ride it must have been to be a listener these first fifty years. The AEC changed jazz, new music, world music, and performance art. Where did you step into the constant river of sound that is the AEC? Was it in the early years documented by Nessa Records, the French label BYG's live European recordings, or the later dates captured by ECM or Japan's DIW Records? Whenever it was, charting the progressions and experimentations could only be amplified if you had the opportunity to hear each disc as it became available. Playing catchup is possible thanks to several reissues which include the massive 21-CD boxset The Art Ensemble Of Chicago And Associated Ensembles (ECM, 2018).

But much like the AACM's theme "Great black music ancient to the future," the 2-CD release We Are On The Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration reignites some AEC classics and sets sail to the future. Recorded at and around the 2018 Edgefest in Ann Arbor, Michigan, this disc is the fourth AEC release by Pi Records and it follows Non-Cognitive Aspects Of The City -Live At Iridium (2006). Gone are Lester Bowie, Malachi Favors, and Joseph Jarman. But certainly their spirits live in this expanded lineup, which includes the relatively new AACM members Nicole Mitchell and Tomeka Reid and Mitchell collaborators Hugh Ragin, Jaribu Shahid, and Fred Berry.

The discs are split between a studio session and a live performance. In studio the AEC revisits music from Chi-Congo (Decca, 1972) to Coming Home Jamaica (Atlantic, 1998) and Mitchell's "Bell Song." The studio session boosts the afrofuturist poetry and vocals of Moor Mother (Camae Ayewa) and the lush vocals of Rodolfo Cordova-Lebron. Mitchell flexes his classical leanings alongside minimal soundscapes, percussive excursions, and an eternal groove "Saturday Morning" that lingers long after the music stops.

With this extended ensemble size Moye and Mitchell are in their element, and the live disc, which repeats five compositions from the studio recordings, takes the affair to another level. You come to the realization why the early AEC recordings were live. There was a concerted effort to capture the band's essence, and that is this music is a living entity. Indeed, the set from the Bethlehem Church of Christ in Ann Arbor is as vibrant as any of the music the AEC released these past 50 years. Long live the Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Personnel

Art Ensemble Of Chicago: band/orchestra.

Album information

Title: We Are on the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Pi Recordings

Tags

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Morning Light
Morning Light
By David A. Orthmann
Read Berit In Space
Berit In Space
By Mark Corroto
Read Cherry Jam
Cherry Jam
By Karl Ackermann
Read Live In Willisau
Live In Willisau
By Troy Dostert
Read Serenity Island
Serenity Island
By Mike Jurkovic
Read Albare Plays Jobim
Albare Plays Jobim
By Edward Blanco
Read Ecology
Ecology
By Toj Samaz