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Les Stances a Sophie

Art Ensemble Of Chicago Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Audio CD (21 Aug 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Soul Jazz
  • ASIN: B00004Y1YH
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 385,326 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description


In 1969 the newly formed Art Ensemble left their home city and headed for France, there acquiring drummer Don Moye and a more precise title. Their two-year stay yielded some 15 albums, including this glorious oddity, a soundtrack to an obscure French New Wave film recorded before an inch of footage was shot. The film is now forgotten, but the music is superb. Many will know "Theme De Yoyo"--a glorious R&B romp with off-the-wall vocals from Fontella Bass, she of "Rescue Me" but also wife of AEC trumpeter Lester Bowie--from its inclusion on the The Universal Sounds of America compilation some five years ago. That track, however, is untypical of the ebullient, riotously inventive mix of abstract soundscapes, anthemic statements and idiosyncratic solos that make up the rest of this set. "Theme Armour Universal" shows a strong Joujouka influence, while a more formal side to the Ensemble is revealed in two variations on a Monteverdi theme. Elsewhere, walls of percussion--all AEC members were drummers as well as hornmen--give way to steely sax or trumpet solos that scorch a passage before them. This set might be 30 years old, but age has not lessened its impact. --Simon Adams

BBC Review

In 1970, without even seeing the film, the Art Ensemble agreed to produce the soundtrack to new wave director,Moshe Misrahi's latest film. While there's a great tradition of American jazz put into service for French cinema, going back to Miles' wonderful soundtrack to Louis Malle's Ascenseur pour l'échafaud, this amazing record is a much more radical beast befitting its times.

In 1969 the band had quit the States following the departure of drummer Philip Wilson (for Paul Butterfield's Blues Band) and were now living in Paris where they actually gained the 'Of Chicago' tail to their name. Following a brief drummerless period (though every member was more than proficient in the percussion department) they finally began working with Don Moye.

Long sought after and whispered about by jazzheads in awed tones, the world can now finally catch up with what many regard as one of the best jazz albums of all time. The reason it works so well is the variety contained herein. The two saxes of Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell combined with Lester Bowie's trumpet can veer from swing to classical with ease. In fact they apply this stylistic dexterity on two adaptations of a Monteverdi theme.

What's more even when the band blow free (as on the appropriately named Theme Libre) it's always with a cheeky sense of humour. Voguishly the track Theme Amour Universal saw the whole band moaning and wailing a la the Morroccan Master Musicians of Joujouka, adding credence to their motto of making music that was ''Ancient To the Future''.

And topping it all off is the inclusion of Lester Bowie's wife at the time, Fontella Bass. The opening track, Theme For Yoyo, has long been regarded as a jazz funk masterpiece. It's cascading brass entry ushering a blistering vocal cameo that's oddly erotic and surreal at the same time. ''Your fanny's just like two sperm whales floating down the Seine...Your love is like an oil well, dig it on the Champs Elysee'' wails Bass.

While the Ensemble were to remain in France and record great albums for Freedom and BYG labels, this album still stands as a pinnacle of its era. Or any other for that matter... --Chris Jones

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Treasure 26 Nov 2002
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
This is a set for inner exploration. Be very quiet, be very still, and let this phenomenal recording by extraordinary musicians take you on an intellectually satisfying emotional journey. I had the original vinyl years ago, lost it in several moves about the country, and am overjoyed to discover it again. You will fall in love.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Theme De Yoyo 17 Jan 2012
Format:Vinyl|Verified Purchase
Recorded in 1970 this brilliant jazz LP from the Art Esemble of Chicago is now available as a reissue from Soul Jazz records. The main track Theme De Yoyo features the soulful vocals of Fontella Bass accompanied by an amazing horn section. The original sells for about 150.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'THEME DE YOYO" LYRICS 4 Oct 2007
Format:Audio CD
Just to correct Mr. H.C. Orr's review of the above song, the lyrics
of THEME DE YOYO were not written by Fontella Bass,
but by filmmaker and artist Noreen Beasley in Paris 1971.
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7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music to have dreams by.... 30 Jun 2001
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
Theme de Yoyo....what more is there to say! Fontella Bass drives along the tumbling percussion and bass line with her fantastic vocals, whilst husband Lester Bowie wiggles on the sax. One of the most brilliant pieces of music ever written.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great avant jazz 5 Jun 2008
By Bill Your 'Free Form FM Print DJ - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This is a live performance by AEC from 1970. It features Fontellla Bass, Lester Bowie's wife at the time, on vocals.

The music is great. It is mainly bluesy lines with very short bursts of free playing, and good solos. Bass' singing is agressive and soulful. The songs swing and never take themselves seriously--AEC were not purists, and musically, would go anywhere, anytime, usually on a bar's notice.

This is crucial, because AEC came at point when other free-jazzers were getting very heavy, and making musical choices out of ideology rather than the joy of playing. AEC lightens this up. These guys, and this gal, were masters, but masters who liked to have FUN.

If you like Jazz, Blues, or Fontella Bass, or just great music, this one is for you.

---I just want to add a postscript that has nothing to do with the internal workings of the album, but Les Stances a Sohpie does inextricably tie in.

I am a big fan of WFMU, the last great FM freeform station. FMU was one of the few New York metro stations not knocked off the air on 9/11/01. Its transmitor was in New Jersey in those days and I think it still is.

The DJs can play whatever they like, and the station decided to make a stand and stay on the air. They have no news service and decided continue at what they do best; play music. Some DJs acknolaged the attacks and then tried to do their shows as normal to provide a musical oasis. Other's tried to shape their shows around what was happening outside, a horrible challange; what is the RIGHT thing to play during the unthinkable.

The first track on this album was played. It is a challanging and defiant blues, yet a blues none the less. It just worked, for reasons I can't intellectually define. This is a great album on its own, but I am so proud of FMU for its tasteful use of material like this and for being so classy in the face of something no one could have been expected to be able to handle.

As one of the DJ's named their show that day, "walk tall, not stupid."

That is what this music, and WFMU, did for those of us around the new york area that day.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First-rate avant-garde Jazz 7 April 2013
By Pierre Taminiaux - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
It is a great record from 1970. One of the best examples of free music ever produced. It has not aged at all.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable 16 Aug 2011
By GB - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
That one word says it all, buy this record. Amazing, amazing, amazing. Fontella and Lester together, you can't ask more.
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