Art Ensemble Of Chicago - Non-Cognitive Aspects Of The City

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Pi 20  | ***
Roscoe Mitchell (as, ss, ts, fl, perc), Famodou Don Moye (d, perc), Jaribu Shahid (b, el b, perc), Corey Wilkes (t, flhn, perc) and Joseph Jarman (as, ss, ts, f, perc, v). Rec. 30 March-4 April 2004

Art Ensemble Of Chicago - Non-Cognitive Aspects Of The City
Most of the attention may be initially, perhaps somewhat unfairly, centred on trumpeter Corey Wilkes, as the young man with the somewhat daunting task of filling the shoes of the late Lester Bowie. But let’s not forget that bassist Jaribu Shahid also has his work cut out for him as the replacement for the inspirational Malachi Favors, another original AEoC member who sadly passed away last year. Both men acquit themselves well, with Wilkes showing enough flair in his improvisations to suggest that he may well evolve into a player of some substance.

Yet this live double album, cut a few years ago at the Iridium in New York, is essentially a reminder of what a collective force AEoC can be, with the highlights coming during moments of intense group interaction when all five voices are locked in to one unifying fanfare that nonetheless allows free rein to the individual warriors. But perhaps the most important thing about this warm, rousing performance is that it reminds us that rock ’n’ roll and the avant-garde are really one and the same. By a trusty sleight of hand – and breath – the driving, sexually charged backbeat of R&B can topple into the free-wheeling pulse and harmonically challenging horn lines of free jazz as seamlessly as day turns to night.

Elsewhere AEoC makes the point that its two spearheads, Jarman and Mitchell, are actually fine composers and that their staples such as ‘Big Red Peaches’ and ‘Odwalla’ are part of an alternative “standards” repertoire that many musicians would do well to investigate if they fancy a change from Burke and Van Heusen. An important release insofar as it reminds the world that despite the loss of two key members of personnel, AEoC remains a force to be reckoned with, a full force.

Kevin Le Gendre