Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Art Ensemble of Chicago - People In Sorrow

Offering little info upon its battered sleeve than the title and date of recording, this appears to be a late sixties live jam by Lester Bowie and his cohorts, with a somewhat abstract, sombre bent. Eschewing the playful, upbeat jazz of other Art Ensemble... albums, both of the 20-minutes cuts on offer here are beautifully sparse, with the pops and clicks of the record grooves often more present than the music proper. A meandering marimba (?) propagates throughout, accompanied by the occasionally light percussion or brass, and an underlying (if not omnipresent) bass, with every instrument willing to give the others an abundance of space. The groups competence shines not in fast playing and difficult riffs, but rather in the ability of multiple instruments to emerge at once from a seemingly infinite nothingness in perfect harmony, a sudden burst of flowing bass and melodic trumpet that soon falls back into the intermittent wash of throaty sax purrs and lazy percussion. Even at its most active the music doesn't appear to actually be going anywhere - bass-lines and saxophone solos appear to have no discernible start or end,  looping perpetually with neither repetition or variation, only to be unceremoniously lost in a creeping flux of bells or primitive yells. It sounds a world away from 'experimental' jazz as we have come to expect, invoking a far more ritualistic, organic form, and is utterly captivating throughout.

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