HEY! Get updates to this and the CD and 7" blogs via Twitter: @VinylUnderbite

4 July 2009

Art Ensemble of Chicago - 'Live in Paris' (Get Back)

Wikipedia incorrectly reports that Don Moye plays on this, which is an easy guess to make since this came out in '74, but the recording is from '69 in pre-Famoudou Paris; I'll stand by the liner notes. But more confusing is the essay in the gatefold, which is from the late 70s so it refers to events that haven't happened yet when this music was being made. Also I should note that my cover is slightly different than this as the word "Live" is actually in grey, and it says "Live in Paris" and the Affinity logo isn't in the bottom right. A beautiful black gatefold with four black sides of great black music - about 100 minutes of it! The first record is "Oh Strange", supposedly a Jarman/Bowie tune though it sounds like a group improvisation if I've ever heard one. It's long and sprawling and it changes a lot but has some absolutely jaw-dropping moments of groupthump. At one point near the end of the second side the band shifts into a detuned, strummy banjo-led bit but instead of referencing some American folk music or country lineage, it's a warped abstracted soundworld. If you told me it was some cassette from the corners of the American underground avant/noise scene of maybe 3, 4 years ago, I would have no reason to doubt you. This prescience is evident at all points of the piece but it sounds most 'current' here; clearly, the rest of the world is still catching up to these guys. The second LP is "Bon Voyage", penned by Bowie, which explodes with a drumset-led freeform freakout. I assume the drums are being played by Malachi Favors though we also hear bass and marimba or vibes or something pulsing underneath. Whoever's doing it is a madman, exploding in little shouts with a rampant nervousness that drives the horns to accelerate towards the sun. Bowie is seriously one of the most expressive trumpet players ever, even if he's just shooting flutters to the winds - they feel so human, and so warm, that they bring a dynamic basis to the colder moments. When it finally starts to settle down we get a really melodic, repetetive trance and then special guest Fontella Bass, aka Mrs. Lester Bowie, chants with the rest of 'em. This record really sounds 'live'; great fidelity, but you can hear the room and feel the energy of the audience (Ils ont été perplexe, non?). I don't mind the fadeouts at the ends of sides 1 and 3 either - it's almost necessary to have a breather in the middle of these dense pillars. Listened to chronologically (by recording date, not release) it's a nice release after all the carefully calculated space on the last couple of records. Some might decry that they've moved into a more traditional free jazz area here, but there's still so much depth and sensitivity in their playing that's more like they moved free jazz into their area.

No comments:

Post a Comment