This recording, comprised of two complete Art Ensemble of Chicago albums – Les Stances a Sophie with singer Fontella Bass from 1970 and People in Sorrow from 1969 – offers two very different sides of the group's sound from this key period in their development. Recorded in France and released on the Nessa label in the United States, the two discs show how much in command the AEC were of their strengths even at that early date, though for the record it should be noted that with the exception of Don Moye and Lester Bowie, the trio of Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, and Malachi Favors had been playing together since 1965…
Alone among the first eight albums of the ECM Rarum series, the Art Ensemble of Chicago edition is a group effort, with surviving members Roscoe Mitchell, Malachi Favors, and Don Moye offering only a brief greeting in the booklet. There were only four Art Ensemble of Chicago albums over only a half-dozen years (1978-1984), so listeners get two tracks from the initial offering, "Nice Guys" and "Full Force," and one apiece from Urban Bushmen and The Third Decade.
Live in Berlin is a live album by the Art Ensemble of Chicago recorded in March 1979 and first released on the West Wind label in 1991. It features performances by Lester Bowie, Joseph Jarman, Roscoe Mitchell, Malachi Favors Maghostut and Don Moye.
The previous Art Ensemble of Chicago ECM album Nice Guys vaulted them to the top of improvised music groups in the U.S. and worldwide, paving the way for similar bands to be more accepted into the mainstream of modern music. Where "Full Force" generally lives up to the title, there's also a palpable diverse approach, producing more than enough potent music brimming from the sinews of these brilliant musicians to uphold their burgeoning cache.
Recorded at a 1980 concert in Munich, Urban Bushmen not only provides an excellent summation of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's work since 1966, but also substantiates the group's reputation for putting on intense and inspired shows. The album centers around three extended pieces: reed player Joseph Jarmen's "Theme for SCO," the group's "Urban Magic," and reed player Roscoe Mitchell's "Uncle."
Originally comprised of saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman, trumpeter Lester Bowie, bassist Malachi Favors, and later, drummer Famoudou Don Moye, the Art Ensemble of Chicago enjoyed a critical reputation as the finest and most influential avant-garde jazz ensemble of the 1970s and '80s. Whether or not that reputation was wholly deserved is, in retrospect, subject to debate the World Saxophone Quartet and the Cecil Taylor Unit may well have been more influential.