AECO, Phase One: Music In Focus, Spreading Wide.
Michael F. Hopkins | Buffalo, NY USA | 04/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After a wait of too many years, some of the most innovative
Music ever conceived is finally finding its way onto CD.
France's intrepid America Records was a vital force in
documenting the explosively creative Jazz and Jazz-rooted
expressions of the late 1960s and 1970s; represented on
this label by the diversified likes of Archie Shepp, Clifford
Thornton, Steve Lacy, and Roswell Rudd.
In ably presenting early works from Anthony Braxton and
The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, the America label proved
foresighted in showcasing the Great Black Music of
Chicago's visionary Association for the Advancement of
Creative Musicians (A.A.C.M.); helping to spread that
organization's polyidiomatic participants and
presentations around the world.
Just how ably this label presented great artists can
be discerned with a listen to this standout recording
of The Art Ensemble Of Chicago from 1971, deep at
work. PHASE ONE is a particularly landmark recording
in that it marks the debut recordings for two of the
AECO's most powerful compositions.
Especially noteworthy is the first recording of Joseph
Jarman's "Ohnedaruth", a stunning multiharmonic tribute
to John Coltrane which embraces the ceaseless spirit
and depth of Coltrane's mastery with the tireless
imagination of Jarman's own wandering muse. Listen
to "Ohnedaruth", vocal invocation giving seed to a
ringing celestial summons. A gargantuan bass line walks
its way through the colors of the bells, threading
their call into convergence. Horns issue the heralding
answer, as theme is engaged.
The drums of Don Moye give body to the thunder of
the storm, as the bass of Malachi Favors now turns
to run the tempestuous, wildly-tipping cloudburst.
Each horn in turn, from Jarman's smoldering imperatives
on tenor, to Lester Bowie's telling quips on trumpet,
and Roscoe Mitchell's searing perplexity on alto,
sweeps us through the eye of the hurricane, into the
deeper fires of freedom within, and promise to come.
From the iridescent swirl and swing of "Ohnedaruth",
the AECO takes us through the contemplative folk cry
of "Lebert Aaly", a collective composition in tribute
to the incantory tenor master Albert Ayler. Where
"Ohnedaruth" emerges from a chromatic timeless space
to take tempo on its own declarative terms, "Lebert
Aaly" is an utter suspension of linear expression
altogether, shaping tone and harmonic dexterity to
make its powerful statement of intrigue and virtue.
Starting in legions of shouting volume, the AECO
takes "Lebert Aaly" into pointed exchanges of
playful subtlety. From scream to whisper, its
implorings dance with a vital insistency which
will not be denied.
Distributed internationally by Universal Music, the
imported Free America CD Series is a rousing display
of what the world can offer, from your own back yard.
Start now. Listen here."
Great early AEC, from their last year in Paris
R. Hutchinson | a world ruled by fossil fuels and fossil minds | 06/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the first time on CD for a rare Art Ensemble recording from February 1971, their last year in Paris before returning to the U.S. There are two 21' pieces, each of course an original vinyl album side. "Ohnedaruth," a Josph Jarman composition, begins with percussion and the AEC little instruments -- a typical ritual opening. The horns enter with a fanfare, and then ensues a hard-driving series of post-bop solos. Roscoe goes first on high-energy tenor, very much in the spirit of Coltrane, to whom the piece is dedicated. Lester follows with what sounds to me like a fabulous imitation of the terse, short-phrased Miles of the BITCHES BREW era, before turning to his characteristic bluesy, humorous style. Jarman slows things down with an ethereal alto solo, and the rhythm section stops. It kicks in again, though, and Roscoe takes another Coltranesque solo to close out the piece. It may seem strange that Roscoe is featured on Jarman's number, but a) the gnarly, hard-driving style was never Joseph Jarman's thing, he was always more lyrical, and b) Mitchell was the tenor player, while Jarman stuck to alto.
"Leebert Aaly," dedicated to Alber Ayler (the anagram strangely missing one letter "r"), is a group improvisation that has no rhythm section, no pulse, until the last few minutes. It begins with a sad, plaintive melodic fragment, and this material is worked with over a shifting pattern of instrumental voices. A beautiful section in the center features vibraphone. Toward the end, Malachi begins a pattern on bass which propels the conclusion. It's a lovely, haunting piece if you surrender to it, a great example of spontaneous, collective improvisation.
It took me several listens to get on the wavelength of this music. That can always happen -- you "bounce off," the music doesn't speak to you. I'm certainly glad I persevered! If you are already an AEC fan, this is an excellent long-lost record that you will want to hear. If you are just encountering the Art Ensemble, my recommendations for the two best AEC albums are 1) FANFARE FOR THE WARRIORS (1974 -- see my review), which I consider to be their best studio album, and 2) URBAN BUSHMEN (1982), which is their best live album, recorded in 1980. Another fine record is the Delmark disc simply called LIVE (live at Mandel Hall on the University of Chicago campus), the recording of the group's first concert after their return to the U.S. in early 1972.
See my AACM -- THE CHICAGO AVANT-GARDE list for more by the AEC and their musical comrades."