This superb two-disc set brings together three albums that were, until the 1990s, difficult to obtain. Originally released separately on the Actuel label, the Art Ensemble of Chicago's REESE AND THE SMOOTH ONES and the first and second parts of Don Cherry's MU (initially two different albums) are reissued on Fuel Records courtesy of Varese Sarabande. The music represents the exciting, transcendent manifestations of free jazz in the late '60s.
REESE AND THE SMOOTH ONES features the great Lester Bowie, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, and Malachi Favors unfurling their trademark sonic chemistry on a battery of horns and auxiliary percussion instruments. The music, at once futuristic and tribal, is seemingly fragmentary and abstract, yet creates a recognizably sustaining musical grammar. But the Art Ensemble's strong set is surpassed by multi-instrumentalist Don Cherry's MU sessions, which feature Cherry in duet with drummer Ed Blackwell. The interplay between Blackwell's expressionistic rhythms (which are part martial pulse, part African groove, and part frantic hurricane) and Cherry's articulations on trumpet (which include folk themes, deep blues, and plenty of outside exploration) is masterful, making MU one of the great overlooked gems of free jazz. This is challenging, beautiful, intuitive music of the first order.