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Art Ensemble of Chicago @ Chicago Jazz Fest, 8-30-19

Updated: Oct 19, 2019

(cool // colors)

Paintings by Lewis Achenbach

Words by Izzy Yellen



Tectonic plates of sonic textures shift with and against each other. This is what listening sounds like.


The Art Ensemble of Chicago has not only grown in size — five members to nearly twenty — but also in a voracity for discovering and sounding new textures, whether that’s by use of new instruments for them or playing with new combinations of familiar palettes. This iteration of the ensemble is a home for deep African drums, electronics that blend into the acoustic (but artfully can be their own voice too), string harmonies and brass swells that I could listen to for hours, vocal duets that ride the line between gorgeous and unsettling, acrobatic piano, and — as expected when flutist Nicole Mitchell and soprano saxophonist/leader Roscoe Mitchell are on the bill — stellar features that exemplify patience and urgency (and anywhere in between).


While only two of the five original members are still alive and playing in this realm, the expanded lineup and current status of the Art Ensemble of Chicago showed hope, continuing creativity, and a more-than-healthy longevity of Great Black Music — both within the group and its many members’ many projects.



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