Originally a double LP, this stunning 1974 album, THE SPIRITUAL, finds the Art Ensemble of Chicago at their artistic height. Reduced to an unusual drummerless quartet for this session (reedsmen Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell, horn player Lester Bowie and bassist/banjo player Malachi Favors all double on various types of percussion), the group explores one of the main stems of jazz, New Orleans gospel and second-line music, without sacrificing its freer sounds. Indeed, without a traditional drummer, the group is free to play at its most unrestrained, unfettered by conventions of tempo.
Yet somehow, there's a basic earthiness to this music, especially on the magnificent title track and the mysteriously beautiful "That the Evening Sky Fell Through the Glass Wall and We Stood Alone Somewhere?," which keeps the Art Ensemble grounded. Listening to THE SPIRITUAL is an experience akin to reading Ishmael Reed's vividly ironic lampoon of Western culture, MUMBO JUMBO.