on 27 July 2015
The Art of Ensemble of Chicago terrified me when I was a teenager getting into jazz and struggling to get beyond Thelonious Monk. Wind forward 35 years and this record serves to remind you just how poor so much contemporary jazz is. Whereas they initially struck me as being too radical and detached from what I understood jazz to be, a record like "Full Force" not only stand firmly within the tradition but offers an approach which is positively Shakespearean. It is also a reminder that ECM once really knew what great jazz was and didn't seem ashamed to promote groups like AEoC.
Captured in a wonderful audio quality, the music has an electric charge throughout. We may be talking about Free Jazz yet the music swings mightily and there is always something happening. The opening track seems to grow from the smallest germ of an idea and crackles with excitement. Lester Bowie was the first avant gardist who captured my imagination and this was largely because there was something about his playing the evoked the likes of Freddie Keppard and King Oliver. The blues tribute to Charlie Mingus takes this further, with Bowie almost sounding like Cootie Williams. It is difficult to take your ears away from listening to this music and the whole craftsmanship of the players, whether as soloists or part of the exotic ensembles makes you realise the folly of many of today's critics who think "cutting edge" means a piano trip with a funny name.
All in all, this is an absolutely brilliant disc and one which is likely to appeal to a broad range of jazz fans and not just committed fans of the Chicago avant garde. This record is unreservedly recommended.
I saw them life in Reykjavik in the early 80's and I knew nothing about them then and the show was a great experience. This was different to say the least, the guys dressed in African costumes with painted faces (except the late Lester Bowie who dressed in white and looked like a doctor).
The stage was full of interesting instruments and smoke and lights were used to enhance the atmosphere, it was Grand Fun.
Full Force is in my opinion the best album from the group (Urban Bushmen is also great) the playing is full of passion and the compositions are higly interesting, original and just pure fun.
One of the things that I really like about this C.D. is that apart from the traditional Jazz instruments like drumset, double bass, sax and trompet, which they all play brilliantly is that they also play all kinds of other instruments like hand drums, many kinds of percussion, celesta and bells and whistles.
It's the kind of music that appeals to the Emotions to the Intellect and to the Funny bone. Humor is for some reason very rarely blended in music.
(Another great musician who also mixes humor with emotions and intellect is of course Frank Zappa).