The Art Ensemble of Chicago
April 25, 2008 3:58 PM   Subscribe

An introductory piece on the Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Some funk from the quintet.
"Ohnedaruth", 1983, in Warsaw (pt. 2)
Four songs in five minutes.
Lugano, Switzerland, 1979.
With some djembe players sitting in (80s?).
With Cecil Taylor, 1984.
In Cagliari, 1982.
In 1981.
Theme de Yoyo (with Fontella Bass ). I wish there was a better video, but you should definitely listen.

Roscoe Mitchell Sound and Space Ensemble.
A fireside chat with the band from All About Jazz (2003).
PSF interview with Joseph Jarman (1999).
Bill Cosby's tribute to Lester Bowie (!).

Bonus bonus having nothing to do with AEoC: Sonny Sharrock and band (Laswell, Kaiser, DST, others) while Keith Haring does a live drawing (1983).

Sorry for the link dump, but once I started watching these awhile back, I reallized that they were all really amazing. Also, sorry for the insistence of one of the YT users placing small ads before some of the vids.
posted by sleepy pete (16 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
saw them back in the 1980s at the Atlanta Jazz Festival. Thanks for the post.
posted by ornate insect at 4:10 PM on April 25, 2008

I had tickets to see them a few years back in Kansas City in the 18th and Vine District (on my birthday, no less), but Lester Bowie died and they cancelled the tour. I was heartbroken in a couple of different ways. They're one of the few bands I haven't seen live that I really, really wish I could, so I'm a bit jealous.
posted by sleepy pete at 4:22 PM on April 25, 2008

I saw them too—a perfect blend of great music and great presentation. I felt I was seeing something happening and not just music being made. (Kind of like seeing the Arkestra.) I was thrilled when I scored a copy of the five-CD 1967/68 set from Nessa for a price I could almost afford (and where the hell is it? I'm having trouble finding some of my CD's since I moved...) I'm really looking forward to exploring these clips; many thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 4:53 PM on April 25, 2008

Also saw Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy at Sweet Basil once, the same week Wynton Marsalis came down to the club in the hopes of sitting in for a cutting contest (Down Beat had recently run a Lester Bowie piece in which he disparaged Marsalis, if I remember correctly). The rumor was that Lester had chosen to just leave Wynton in the audience instead of inviting him to play. Which is hardly surprising, since Lester's music was not really a jam vehicle for cutting as Wynton imagined it.
posted by ornate insect at 5:02 PM on April 25, 2008

this rules! been listening to "full force" and "fanfare for the warriors" for a while now so it's nice to see some live performances. favorited!
posted by auralcoral at 5:59 PM on April 25, 2008

Listening to Baptizum right now. There's a Jackson in Yer House is up next.

My first big inspiration to start playing music.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:28 PM on April 25, 2008

I saw them in the mid=80's at the UC Davis Coffee House. For me they were incredible live, and it just didn't come across as well on albums. It was an experience, and you felt like you were a part of the music, not just an audience member.

The whole Wynton thing was pretty sad, and it especially showed that Wynton just doesn't get jazz like his brother Branford does. Wynton is an incredible trumpeter, but when he plays jazz he misses a big part of what it's about. As a classical player, he's fantastic though, and technically he's amazingly adept. I don't know if it's an issue of ego, but his jazz play lacks that je ne sais quoi that great jazz has.
posted by Eekacat at 7:58 PM on April 25, 2008

Baptizum. Wuz that to me. Sixteen, and never been jazzed.

Gaslight Square; St. Louis, Missouri. 1968, maybe 1969. Around the corner from radio station KDNA.

A man climbing a stepladder and dropping a huge toy truck into a garbage can. Lester Bowie kicking open the swing doors and playing out inna hallway and kicking open the jams back into the thee-ay-ter...

And more more more music magick fuck the world musick...

Sgt. Pepper's blew my mind; The Art Ensemble of Chicago blew off the top of my head. It took a few decades to understand what they were doing, but, as a teen: Art Ensemble: you saved my sanity.

Seeing them, Cecil Taylor, Mingus, Rahsaan Roland Kirk (many times), Lonnie Liston Smith, Pharoah Sanders (lots), Sun Ra (every chance I got) music changed my DNA: I will never need an iPod in this lifetime: these cats were magicians.
posted by kozad at 8:05 PM on April 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

back in the 80's NYS sponsored a "new music tour" with AEoC . I had just started in music production, and had recently lost a ton of money on Branford's first tour among other shows, and was offered the chance to work on the AEoC dates (along w/ Cecil Taylor and others including record "scratchers" and "samplers" still novel at the time), life changing music.
I spent hours just listening to Malachi Favors talk, although mad as a hatter, was mesmerizing. Although the best quote of the tour was Cecil's who turned away the pre-show piano tuner..."too many pianos too much in tune already."
posted by Duck_Lips at 8:14 PM on April 25, 2008

Saw them in Melbourne, Ozstralia (in 1979?), and was amazed at how many people didn't get the screamingly obvious humour. Nope, they were there for the Art Ensemble — no laughter permitted, this is Art Music for Art Appreciators.

Nice post, thanks.
posted by Wolof at 8:27 PM on April 25, 2008

Theme de Yoyo...I wish there was a better video, but you should definitely listen.

Well there's this video from a drag show. (nsfw) They don't really live up to the power of the song, but I give 'em credit for trying.

George Lewis has a history of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians coming out soon. It's called
A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music
and you can read an interesting review here.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:50 PM on April 25, 2008

Yeah, I liked that video as well, hydrophonic. Thanks for pointing out the book, I'll definitely check that out.
posted by sleepy pete at 10:02 PM on April 25, 2008

Thanks for the post, sleepy pete. A really great band. I saw them more or less every chance I had (that's taking into account how broke I usually was) during the late 70s to mid-80s: must've been 7 or 8 times, I guess. And as mentioned above, it was always an event. Had all their records, and played for several years in a band in Boston that was heavily influenced by them (called "Ensemble Garuda", which included trumpeter Frank London, now of Klezmatics fame).

The story I heard about Wynton Marsalis and Lester Bowie at Sweet Basil's was a bit juicier than that related by ornate insect above. Years back, I heard (and I'd love it if anyone could verify this) that Marsalis stood up from his seat, and stayed up, visible, of course, to everyone onstage as well as everyone in the audience (Sweet Basil's was a small place) during a tune that Bowie and company were doing, and that Lester said to Marsalis, from the stage "Sit down, boy."

Again, anyone who might've been there and seen such a thing, and can corroborate this story, please do so!

One other thing about that, though: best as I can recall, I thought it was the Village Vanguard, not Sweet Basil's. They're both small places...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:44 AM on April 26, 2008

hydrophonic: Thanks very much for the book link. George Lewis is an incredible trombonist (his 1979 Homage to Charles Parker is one of the all-time greatest jazz records), and he was one of the most important AACM musicians; I can't wait to see what he has to say about it.
posted by languagehat at 6:09 AM on April 26, 2008

Listening to the "live with Cecil Taylor" clip now—Jesus Christ, that's some amazing music. This post is going to keep me going for a while.
posted by languagehat at 6:15 AM on April 26, 2008

Another awesome post, sleepy pete - thank you!
posted by madamjujujive at 8:57 AM on April 26, 2008

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