After the manic energy of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, and the late Coltrane, SOUND introduced an entirely different approach to the developing free jazz avant-garde -- the deliberate use of space and the elimination of the pulse. Of course, this was not accepted within the parameters of "jazz" by many, but it shared that fate with all of the above-mentioned innovators. Though I know Mitchell has denied the connection, his sound innovations created common ground with the European avant-garde in the form of improvising groups like AMM and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble (which included Evan Parker), as well as the experimentalists of the classical tradition.
This recording of Roscoe Mitchell's compositions was the first recording by the new AACM, Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, which at first centered around pianist and composer Muhal Richard Abrams. Robert Koester's Delmark label was important in documenting the AACM in those early years, recording Abrams, Anthony Braxton, and others. This delmark CD reissue, from 1996, the 30th year anniversary of the original recording, is a remarkable expansion of the original vinyl edition. First, an alternate recording of "Ornette" is added. Second, the original "Sound," as it turns out, was a splice from two recordings -- here we are presented with both versions in their entirety, one 26'26, and the other 19'20. "Ornette" is the most conventional of the three compositions, and serves as a gateway into the realm of pure sound abstraction of the title track. "The Litte Suite," which introduced what became a core element of the Art Ensemble's repertoire in later years, a bewildering battery of little percussion instruments, whistles, harmonicas, and so forth, brings a humorous note, which would also become so key to the AEC sound palette.
SOUND is attributed to the Roscoe Mitchell Sextet, but it already features Malachi Favors on bass and Lester Bowie on trumpet. Joseph Jarman would soon join Mitchell, Favors & Bowie in what was originally called Roscoe Mitchell's Art Ensemble. They left for Paris in 1969, where Don Moye joined, and "Chicago" was added, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago was born.
SOUND may not be as well-known as Ornette's THE SHAPE OF JAZZ TO COME, or Coltrane's A LOVE SUPREME. It may be only slightly more obscure than Cecil's UNIT STRUCTURES, come to think of it. But the point is, it should be more widely known -- it's not easy listening music, it is a voyage into the unknown. It represents the creative spirit of music at its best.