Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Third Decade (ECM 1273)

 

Art Ensemble of Chicago
The Third Decade

Lester Bowie trumpet, fluegelhorn
Joseph Jarman reeds, synthesizer, percussion
Roscoe Mitchell reeds, percussion
Malachi Favors Maghostus bass, percussion
Famoudou Don Moye drums, percussion
Recorded June 1984 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Drawn from a wealth of sources and enhanced with the usual assortment of found sounds, The Third Decade is another solid outing from the Art Ensemble of Chicago that would be the group’s last on ECM for another seventeen years. One can always expect an eclectic experience on any AEC joint, and this one doesn’t disappoint.

From the snaking synthesizer lines and various nocturnal rustlings of Joseph Jarman’s “Prayer For Jimbo Kwesi,” which sound like the soundtrack to a home movie version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, to the freely improvised and maddening (traffic) jam of the title track, there’s bound to be something for everyone. The former, with its subtle horns and nascent bass, is especially fascinating and showcases the AEC’s ability to sustain itself through long, ponderous distances with unwavering interest. “Funky AECO” is just that, though always tempered by the percussive oddities that are the AEC’s trademark, and ever enlivened by inner fire. And speaking of fire, Lester Bowie positively dances on it here, carrying through his playing just the sort of uplift for which he will always be missed. Roscoe Mitchell counters with two mysterious constructions of his own, “Walking In The Moonlight” and “The Bell Piece,” each a link in a chain of good humor and transcendence. Bowie’s “Zero” is a more straight-laced affair and shows the AEC at its crowd-pleasing best.

As AEC efforts go, The Third Decade is relatively reserved and shows us a softer side of this powerful collective. By no means a detriment, it belongs with all the rest as a valuable creative archive.

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