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Tribute to Lester

The Art Ensemble of Chicago

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Album Review

The death of the AEC's colorful lab-coated trumpeter Lester Bowie in 1999 was a huge blow to the veteran avant-garde band but not a fatal one, for the surviving members — Roscoe Mitchell, Malachi Favors Moghostut, and Famoudou Don Moye — decided to carry on as a trio. The CD also marks the group's return to the ECM shelf after 19 years elsewhere — and in turn, the group receives probably the most stunning, precisely etched recorded sound of its existence. Yet despite the retrospective nature of some of the selections, there is no overt nostalgia or compromise in the AEC's aesthetic stance, probably figuring that Bowie would have wanted it that way. "Sangaredi" leads off the disc with one of the AEC's more treasured percussion jams, a tribal ritual that picks up speed, with Mitchell's bass saxophone honking away, culminating in the grand clash of gongs. The trio merges Bowie's "Zero" with Mitchell's "Alternate Line" into a relatively straight-ahead walking-bass carpet for Mitchell's tenor to tread upon. "Tutankhamun" dates back to the AEC's early years in Paris, with Mitchell working his way toward a whirling North African-flavored solo on soprano against the free interplay of his colleagues. From this point on to the close, it's all collective improvisation, the threesome playing free and wild, yet with absolute empathy and telepathic precision. This stimulating homage to the AEC's beloved trumpeter was recorded in 2001 but not released until nearly two years later, by which time reedman Joseph Jarman had rejoined the band full-time. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi

Biography

Formed: 1966 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Originally comprised of saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman, trumpeter Lester Bowie, bassist Malachi Favors, and later, drummer Famoudou Don Moye, the Art Ensemble of Chicago enjoyed a critical reputation as the finest and most influential avant-garde jazz ensemble of the 1970s and '80s. Whether or not that reputation was wholly deserved is, in retrospect, subject to debate — the World Saxophone Quartet and the Cecil Taylor Unit may well have been more influential. Nevertheless,...
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Tribute to Lester, The Art Ensemble of Chicago
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