ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO: NEW RELEASE ON NEXT FRIDAY 27TH JANUARY
Recorded in France in 2020 at the Sons d'Hiver festival, The Sixth Decade: From Paris To Paris celebrates the legendary group's historic ties to Paris, where it officially became The Art Ensemble of Chicago in 1969.
The Sixth Decade: From Paris to Paris, a live two-disc album that offers further evidence of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's brilliance and revolutionary approach pushing them even further into uncharted territory with its string quartets, art songs, African rhythms, chorales, operatic voices and spoken word declamations.
Who would have guessed back in 1969, when the Art Ensemble accepted an invitation to live and perform in Paris as emissaries from Chicago's vaunted Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, that they would still be furthering the cause of Great Black Music there, and in the rest of the world, six decades later? "The timing was so correct, " says the 82-year-old Mitchell. "The city was on fire with concerts and recording sessions and musicians coming to Paris from Africa. People still talk about it." The Art Ensemble quickly left their imprint on the scene with early gems including Les Stances à Sophie, Tutankhamun and People in Sorrow.
"When I joined Art Ensemble of Chicago they said to me: if you do want to be famous and if you do believe in Great Black Music in the history of jazz, then you will be part of jazz history. That was a big moment for me" Moye recalls the very day he became a member of the band "Their vision was already clearly fixed from the beginning: Lester brought the definition of Great Black Music and Malachi added to it Ancient to the Future. The path was traced and I had only to follow it. That was my mission from that day onward. That meant being fully committed to it. if I would have not been serious then it should has been better to do something else." So, with full commitment and deep coherence, after 54 years the basic idea remains the same.
Nowadays, one of their prime aims is to pave the way for younger artists. Boasting powerful performances by relative newcomers, The Sixth Decade happily attains that goal. "We look for talented musicians already having a strong idea on what we do with the right energy and flexibility. Rehearsals are the most important thing besides improvisation. So discipline and talent are the key words" Moye says "Then we try to build up a good mix of young musicians and experienced ones. Young people bring fresh air and new talents while the more experienced make the job easier for everyone. The right people and the right work have to be in the moment. The reality is now and the vision is for tomorrow and beyond".
Moye's words are confirmed by the young French trombonist and piano player Simon Sieger who joined the Art Ensemble of Chicago in 2019 "Playing with this band is not only playing music. It's taking on the responsibility of making history. Famoudou Don Moye and Roscoe Mitchell have become the great masters that give us the opportunity to be part of the tradition of Great Black Music, Ancient to the Future. The space they gave me to express myself is sacred, it has changed my playing, and my life".
Recorded at the 2020 Sons d'Hiver Festival in the Paris suburb of Curtail for the highly regarded, Paris-based Rogue Art label, The Sixth Decade boasts signature outpourings of African percussion, tonal structures and spatial experimentation while reflecting Roscoe Mitchell's newfound prominence as a composer for string ensembles and Famoudou Don Moye's relentless pursuit of the Pan-African pulse and musical Spirit of the African diaspora and beyond.
"It has been a constant exchange, a strong meeting, between African traditions and the Diaspora." Moye explains "I always learn the rhythm before improvising." The result is a combination of all his studies and interests in rhythm and melody together with blues and African American traditions and authentic rhythms from Africa and beyond. "Since I joined the Art Ensemble of Chicago, I have deepened and strengthened my research which ranges not only from the traditional rhythms of Mali, Senegal, Guinée and Morocco but also Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti. Since I was a kid, I was listening to those rhythms and grooves: I come from there and I go back there. It's like going home. The drums let you connect to the Spirit of the Music".
The percussive rhythms of the African Diaspora blend African traditions, soul and musicians. In the past Art Ensemble has collaborated and performed and recorded with several African bands and musicians. Nowadays, since 2017, they welcomed the Senegalese master percussionist, multi-instrumentalist and griot Mohamadou "Dudù" Kouate as a stable guest member of the band. "Playing in The Sixth Decade was great: it was a gathering of diversity and humanity beyond the delight of playing together with excellent musicians. Moreover it is as fascinating as it is stimulating and requires a strong commitment and hard work: I bring the rhythms and traditions of my culture and Moye and the other percussionists learn their meanings and how to play them. In the same way I learn the rhythms of the African American tradition: we listen to each other and study these new rhythms we find a balance between multiple legacies".
This new release is a provocative balance not only between African and African American tradition, but also between improvisation, contemporary music, classical music, chants, poetry and rituals. And so under the careful guidance of Moye and Roscoe, respecting each other and the individuality of the guest musicians, the music of the Art Ensemble of Chicago is constantly changing but its spirit remains the same.
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