The Art Ensemble of Chicago
Lester Bowie, on brass and percussion.
Joseph Jarman, on reeds and percussion.
Roscoe Mitchell, on reeds and percussion.
Malachi Favors, bass, percussions.
The extended twin part theme with improvised variations is perhaps the group’s most important performance. The composition (or the framework for the improvisations) involves a series of variations (sometimes overlapping) and repetitions of a mournful theme, initially stated by bells or a celeste. The bass line provides the rhythmic propulsion and a ground line with harmonic support, while the woodwinds, brass and various tuned percussion instruments (as well as Malachi Favors’ vocals) supply variations. Throughout the whole piece various other percussion sounds create aural space and architecture around which the instruments navigate.
The experiments of the Art Ensemble of Chicago represent a departure from the free jazz advances of Ornette Coleman (which was based on harmonic improvisations) on the one hand and Cecil Taylor (whose work largely involved complex rhythmic patters and percussive effects). The Art Ensemble of Chicago by contrast always retained accessible melodies, even while bending notes and providing percussive commentary.