Dusted Reviews

Art Ensemble of Chicago - Selected Recordings

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Art Ensemble of Chicago

Album: Selected Recordings

Label: ECM

Review date: Jun. 11, 2002

Selected Recordings is part of ECM's new Rarum series, in which artists or groups are asked to assemble their own best-of compilation from their favorite ECM performances. The Art Ensemble of Chicago's contribution to the Rarum series collects tracks from the group's four ECM albums, as well as non-AEC pieces from group members Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman and the late Lester Bowie.

Two tracks by Bowie-- the Art Ensemble's "Charlie M," from 1980's Full Force, and "Rios Negroes," from Bowie's 1981 solo LP The Great Pretender-- appear early on the album. On the former, Bowie squawks through a raunchy walking blues, and on the latter, bassist Fred Williams guides the rest of Bowie's quartet through a brisk, Latin-inflected vamp-a-thon that pianist Donald Smith punctuates with gloriously giddy polyrhythms. Both pieces are fine, even excellent, at what they do. But their conventional arrangements and structures sound positively quaint next to the Art Ensemble's "Magg Zelma," which announces its arrival with a splatter of bird-call saxophone wails, then settles into a lulling meditation for gong, vibraphone and other tuned percussion instruments, before finally morphing into percussive yet free-flowing avant-jazz.

And so it goes throughout Selected Recordings: don't expect much in the way of cohesion, but expect to be startled by much of this music, unless you've already heard all of it. Also, expect a lot of reverb-- ECM sessions are known for their pristine, echoing production, and none of these is an exception. The rich recordings work well for the more conventional tracks, in which the reverb fills out the group's sound. The stranger pieces, however, with all their exotic percussion instruments and whistle calls, often sound like folk music from a culture that never existed, and it would be easier to hear them as such with drier, less obviously modern-sounding production. The gritty, uncomplicated sound quality on some of the Art Ensemble's early albums, like 1969's Tutankhamun, is better suited to the group than ECM's concert hall-like recordings.

Still, a lot of the music here, like the wind-chime washes and urgent alarm-call sputters on "Folkus" and the hectic free interplay from Mitchell, pianist Matthew Shipp and trombonist George Lewis on Mitchell's solo recording "Nine to Get Ready," sounds way ahead of the curve. Selected Recordings isn't the most cohesive or best-recorded Art Ensemble record, but much of it sounds ahead of its time, and it's a fine introduction to the group's work from the late 1970s to the early 1980s.

By Charlie Wilmoth

Other Reviews of Art Ensemble of Chicago

Tribute to Lester

Non-cognitive Aspects of the City - Live at Iridium

Early Combinations

Read More

View all articles by Charlie Wilmoth

Find out more about ECM

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.