The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s 1972 performance at the University of Chicago’s Mandel Hall–captured on the Delmark album Live–was both a homecoming and a reawakening for the group. The AEC had taken up residence in Paris in 1969, where it evolved into the flagship of the nascent Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians; the band had returned to Chicago in part because of a growing tolerance for avant-garde jazz in the States, which in turn spurred the next phase of the AEC’s development. This show–billed as a “Return to Mandel Hall”–announces yet another new direction for a group many thought would fade away after the death of trumpeter Lester Bowie in 1999 and the passing of bassist Malachi Favors earlier this year. Only reedists Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman remain from the Art Ensemble’s first incarnation–a drummerless quartet where everyone doubled as a percussionist–but they’re refusing the chance to let the AEC go gently. To complete the generation-spanning six-piece lineup that makes its local debut here, Mitchell, Jarman, and drummer Famoudou Don Moye have enlisted a longtime associate from Detroit, multidimensional bassist Jaribu Shahid; fiery young Chicago-area trumpeter Corey Wilkes; and percussionist and n’goni player Baba Sissoko. Though this concert promises to temper the AEC’s theatricality with a new serenity–Jarman is now a Zen Buddhist priest, and a serious illness gave Mitchell a glimpse of his own mortality a few years back–the band should also be energized by its own phoenixlike rebirth. Friday, April 30, 8 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 773-702-8068.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Michael Jackson.