I heard FANFARE FOR THE WARRIORS for the first time when it finally appeared on CD in 1999. The original LP had been released in 1974. It is the Art Ensemble's finest studio recording! Joined by Muhal Richard Abrams on piano, it is a flawless representation of the band's facets, talents, and overall effect.
FANFARE opens with Joseph Jarman reading an epic Pan-African poem by Malachi Favors over the famous Ensemble "little instruments." This captures the theatrical and mythical elements of the band at the outset. Their performances were always rituals. The rest of the album is a perfect symmetrical journey. The sadly departed Lester Bowie kicks things off with the rollicking "Barnyard Scuffel Shuffel." Roscoe leads us into the mystical with his "Nonaah," culminating with the journey's destination -- Jarman's "Fanfare." A slighter Jarman piece "What's to Say" leads back to another enigmatic Mitchell passage, "Tnoona." The journey closes as always with a blues beat -- this time it's Roscoe's "The Key."
The best Art Ensemble recording is the live URBAN BUSHMEN, but FANFARE is a close second, and is a perfect introduction to the band. The overall effect was/is always greater than the sum of the parts, but each part is more perfectly realized on this album than anywhere else in their recorded output.