THE ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO AND ASSOCIATED ENSEMBLES.

The Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Associated Ensembles.

Label: ECM Records.

As 2018, dawned, the pioneering avant-garde jazz group the Art Ensemble of Chicago were preparing to celebrate fifty years making ambitious and innovative music. This includes the five Art Ensemble Of Chicago albums that features on The Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Associated Ensembles, which is a twenty-one disc box set that has just been released by ECM  Records. It’s the perfect introduction to The Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Associated Ensembles, who can trace their roots back to 1965.

That was when the Advancement of Creative Musicians  was ,founded in Chicago in 1965, Three years  later, in 1968, Lester Bowie, Roscoe Mitchell,  Joseph Jarman and Malachi Favors decided to form a new group in 1968 which they called the Art Ensemble of Chicago.

By 1969, the Art Ensemble of Chicago had left the Windy City behind and headed to Paris, France where they became a truly prolific group. Between 1969 and 1971 the recording studio was like  a second home for the Art Ensemble of Chicago. They were sometimes they were joined by musicians of the caliber of Archie Shepp and Don Cherry. Other times, the Art Ensemble of Chicago were joined by Sunny Murray and Andrew Braxton in the recording studio. However, when they recorded their first soundtrack album Les Stances A Sophie, which was a landmark album and one of the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s most  ambitious and innovative released.  

When the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s visa ran out, they returned home and began the next chapter in their career. They released albums on various labels between 1971 and 1978 when they signed to ECM Records where they released some of the finest and most groundbreaking music of a long and illustrious career.

The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s ECM Records’ years is documented on The Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Associated Ensembles. Five of the twenty-one albums feature the Art Ensemble Of Chicago including 1979s Nice Guys, 1980s Full Force and Urban Bushmen, 1984s The Third Decade and 2001s Tribute to Lester. These five albums feature the Art Ensemble Of Chicago at the peak of their creative powers as they push musical boundaries and create music that is ambitious, innovative and tinged with humour. However, the albums by the Art Ensemble Of Chicago is only part of the story of The Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Associated Ensembles.

There’s also albums from the various members of the Art Ensemble Of Chicago including trumpeter Leo Smith’s 1978 album Divine Love. This isn’t the only album from an Art Ensemble Of Chicago trumpeter.

Lester Bowie one of the founding members of  the Art Ensemble Of Chicago has four albums in The Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Associated Ensembles. This includes 1981s The Great Pretender and 1983s All The Magic! They’re joined by Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy’s 1985 album I Only Have Eyes For You and 1986s Avant Pop. These albums are a reminder of a true musical pioneer whose raison d’être was to push musical boundaries to their limits.

Roscoe Mitchell, the Art Ensemble Of Chicago’s gifted and supremely talented, if idiosyncratic saxophonist contributes four albums to the box set. This includes 1999s solo album Nine To Get Ready, and The Transatlantic Art Ensemble’s 2007 album  Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 and 3. They’re joined by Roscoe Mitchell and The Note Factory’s The Note Factory 2010 album Far Side. These four albums are among the finest moments of Roscoe Mitchell’s career outside of the Art Ensemble Of Chicago. The music is inventive, innovate and ahead of the musical curve. 

It’s similar case with Evan Parker’s contribution to The Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Associated Ensembles. This comes courtesy of The Transatlantic Art Ensemble and their 2008 album Boustrophedon.

The other three albums in The Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Associated Ensembles box set feature drummer Jack DeJohnette. This includes 1980s New Directions and New Directions: In Europe and 2013s Made In Chicago which features Muhal Richard Abrams, Larry Gray, Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill. This all-star lineup showcases their considerable skills on Made In Chicago, especially one of the great jazz drummers of his generation, Jack DeJohnette.

He’s just one of the musicians that have been part of the Art Ensemble Of Chicago during their fifty year history. The various lineups of the Art Ensemble Of Chicago have recorded and released albums on a number of labels. 

Part of that time was spent at ECM Records who recently released The Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Associated Ensembles box set. It features twenty-one albums and a lavish 298 page book, which is a reminder of  the Art Ensemble Of Chicago’s ECM Records’ years. During this period, the Art Ensemble Of Chicago recorded music that was ambitious, exciting, inventive, innovative and tinged with humour as they pushed musical boundaries to their limit and beyond. That is what The Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Associated Ensembles have been doing since 1968, and a reminder of this can be found in what’s one of the box sets of 2018.

 The Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Associated Ensembles.

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