Boomkat Product Review:
A legendary free-jazz side resurfaces with Art Ensemble of Chicago’s seminal ‘Tutankhamen’, recorded in Paris, 26th June, 1969, and still sounding outta this world 50 years later
‘Tutankhamun’ was recorded only weeks after the pioneering Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Anthony Braxton Trio had departed America, where they struggled to make a living from their art, for Europe, “the American jazz musician’s promised land” where they made an indelible mark.
Revolving Lester Bowie, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman and Malachi Favours on the recording, the Ensemble instinctively move beyond jazz’s concerns with melody, harmony and rhythm to a metaphorical and physical headspace where they could cut loose, focussing on the very texture and grain of their sound in a way that effectively resonates with the European avant-garde, while also working as an extension of jazz, proper.
Where the notion of free-jazz may have since become associated variously with macho feats of musicianship, psychotomimetic abstraction, and sometimes anything but jazz as most people know it, in the Ensemble’s hands it’s a coolly playful framework for witty, colourful expression and novel combinations of instrumental ideas that rarely test the listener’s patience, and are more likely to light up yer swede in the most pleasurable way.