Monday, March 8, 2010

Art Ensemble 40, Ars Nova 10

Saturday night's performance by the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the fourth and final show in the Ars Nova Workshop's Anti-Jazz Series, proved to be fittingly climactic. Once through the first couple of minutes of tuning in and finding their rhythm, the band was on — and in a seriously powerful groove — for the duration of their gig, putting on what was for me by far the most completely enjoyable show of the series. Even though my photo (above) sucks from a technical perspective, I kind of like the way it captures the energy of the show — very circular and vibrational, with a hum that you could feel all the way through your body if you just closed your eyes and let it take you.

The show was a fitting finale to the series from a benchmark perspective, as well. As the Art Ensemble, founded in 1969, has just entered its fifth decade of active musical artistry, Philadelphia's Ars Nova Workshop is poised to celebrate its own ten-year anniversary. Ars Nova's official 10th anniversary show is coming up in just a little over a week. Whether or not you make it to that performance is a moot point. Ars Nova promotes an amazing array of shows, with a nearly non-stop schedule. I won't go so far as to say there's something there for everyone; however, if you live in the Philadelphia area (or plan to visit) and are into creative music and cutting-edge jazz, you need to keep a regular watch on the Ars Nova event schedule.

As for last Saturday's show, I wasn't quite sure what to expect but was obviously pleased. It had been the better part of 30 years since I'd last seen the Art Ensemble — an early '80s show at the Wax Museum in Washington, DC, just a year or two at most after the video you can watch and hear below. Though founding members Lester Bowie and Malachi Favors are no longer with us, Roscoe Mitchell, Famoudou Don Moyé and the newer additions to the group are still bringing it. If presented with the chance, catch them while you still can.

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