Monday, January 03, 2005

Art Ensemble of Chicago - Certain Blacks (Inner City, 1970)

This rare Art Ensemble album was cut just prior to the band's extended stay overseas (which was documented on the Americans Swinging in Paris CD, as well as some BYG albums.) This album provides a fascinating glimpse into the varied influences that made up the group. The opening title track is very long, clocking in at over twenty minutes, and is a fascinating piece of avant garde music, employing both traditional jazz instrumentation and the so-called 'little' percussion instruments the band was fond of. This was also a plea for African-American pride and unity during the civil rights struggle.

The rest of the album is no less interesting. "One for Jarman" is, as you may expect, a spot for saxophonist Joseph Jarman to shine, and the most abstract piece on the album. Rounding things out is "Bye Bye Baby" a rare example of the Art Ensemble playing the blues, complete with a harmonica solo! When the band said its motto was "ancient to the future" they weren't kidding. This is a fascinating album, and deserves to be on a fast-track to reissue.

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