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18 July 2009

Art Ensemble of Chicago - 'Bap-Tizum' (Atlantic)

This is a pretty much complete performance of the Art Ensemble of Chicago from the 1972 Ann Arbor Blues Festival, a festival that I think my own father actually attended though I'm not exactly sure which year he went, and neither is he. My rock'n'roll-hatin, Cuban heel-wearing Daddy (probably actually classified as a Daddy-O at the time) may have loathed Keith Richards with all of his gusto but I think he was OK with free jazz. At least, I found Ornette Live at the Golden Circle, Stockholm vol. 2 in his collection and he told me he used to have a Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra (but alas, we couldn't locate it nor could he remember which volume it was). I guess it was crazy shit for him to dig on in those days, thankfully free from the raping-of-blues that he equated with all rock music -- and I mean all, as Dad honestly doesn't even know who Bono is in 2009, which is a feat of cultural isolation that is pretty admirable if you ask me. He woulda gone to Michigan to see the actual "blues" content of that festival, but this Great Black Music (as the cover reminds us) isn't too far of a stretch from Leadbelly or Blind Willie anybody. John Sinclair introduces the band before they start, so you can hear the correct way to pronounce "Bowie". Then they launch into the first recorded Don Moye composition we've come across, 'Nfamoudou - Boudougou'. And surprise - it's an explosive drum circle freakout that rattles the skeletal system deep down to the marrow. As the band shifts through a pretty solid, representative set we hear some deep droning bass bowing with a little bit of static from the surface noise of the record that makes some passages feel like an industrial film soundtrack or something.... Side two has 'Ohnedaruth', the Jarman composition I thought might be mislabeled on Phase One but it turns out the labels were right - this is a hard-rocking jam that has some awesome sounding marimba. The closing piece is 'Odawlla', by Roscoe Mitchell, which is a fairly traditional, melodic sounding composition with lovely bluesy chords - perhaps a request of the festival? It's really touching and Lester Bowie is hella expressive here and when it comes to a conclusion the 10,000 concertgoers can barely contain themselves. You can just feel the wave of triumph that these guys musta been riding after this performance. I think I used to have this one on CD, maybe even purchased new on a mid-price Atlantic reish before I upgraded to this format. But you know, I can't actually remember.

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