The Art Ensemble of Chicago / Fontella Bass

With Fontenella Bass

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The Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass was recorded in a Paris studio in 1970. The band had been gigging regularly in the city and this session offered an intimate view of the live material including "How Strange" which appeared later on Live in Paris. "How Strange" is part of a suite with "Ole Jed," comprising nearly 22 minutes. Bass, an R&B and gospel singer by trade and Lester Bowie's wife at the time, adds a wonderful theatrical and sonic dimension to the Art Ensemble's creative juggernaut. "How Strange" begins with an African chant by Joseph Jarman and Bass. As the instruments enter in earnest, one can hear traces of "Round Midnight" waft through the background and then the musical reality play is off an running. Bass sings, roars, growls, chants and spits poetry, becoming another fiery instrument in the band's arsenal. On "Horn, Webb," Don Moye kicks it with a trap drum solo. For nearly four minutes before the tack comes to a standstill and the horns of Jarman, Bowie and Roscoe Mitchell come in, blaring in unison before the work becomes a long, spacious textural study with many dynamic and colorful shifts along the way. Thirty-six years later, this piece still sounds fresh, new, full of inquiry and excitement. This set stands the test of time beautifully.

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