Home Read Classic Album Review: Art Ensemble of Chicago | Selected Recordings

Classic Album Review: Art Ensemble of Chicago | Selected Recordings

The avant-garders pushed the limits of free jazz & influenced countless followers, hitting the skronky spot between Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra & Captain Beefheart.

This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Maybe it’s because most of the big-name pop and rock acts are hibernating. Maybe it’s because I spent the last month swinging to the Rat Pack Christmas album. Or maybe it’s just because they both start with the letters J and A. Whatever. All I know is I always seem to listen to a lot of jazz in January. Looks like this year is no exception — thanks mainly to a cornucopia of cool titles that landed in stores before the holidays. At least four respected labels — Blue Note, ECM, Impulse and Verve — have impressive and affordable new retrospectives or reissues on the racks right now. Even if you don’t know be-bop from doo-wop, I suggest you give one or two a try. Here’s a little primer to help you get into the swing on The Art Ensemble Of Chicago:

WHO: An avant-garde outfit that pushed the limits of free jazz and influenced countless followers, The Art Ensemble Of Chicago were comprised of saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman, trumpeter Lester Bowie, bassist Malachi Favors, and later, drummer Famoudou Don Moye.

WHEN: The group formed in 1966 and have existed in one form or another ever since — despite the retirement of Jarman in 1993 and the 1999 death of Bowie due to liver cancer.

WHAT YOU GET: Eight ’70s and ’80s cuts of adventurous, free-thinking jazz whose skronky tones, meandering arrangements and clattering rhythms often make them seem more like tone poems or sonic paintings than traditional songs.

WHERE THEY FIT IN: Right after Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra, but right before Captain Beefheart.