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Art Ensemble of Chicago

The main group to come out of the Association For The Advancement Of Creative Musicians (AACM), founded in Chicago in 1965 as a musical and spiritual co-operative dedicated to encouraging self-respect and creating work opportunities for creative black artists. Members of what was to become the Art Ensemble performed together under various band names in the mid-sixties ? saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, trumpeter Lester Bowie and bassist Malachi Favors recorded their first album together in 1966 as The Roscoe Mitchell Sextet. In 1967 they were joined by fellow AACM member saxophonist Joseph Jarman and in 1969 the band travelled to France where they became known as the Art Ensemble of Chicago, a name apparently given to them by a French promoter simply to let people know where they were from but the band felt it reflected their co-operative spirit and so the name stuck

In 1970 the Ensemble recorded two albums with the singer Fontella Bass, who was then Lester Bowie's wife. Les Stances A Sophie was the soundtrack for the film of the same name and the awesome Theme De YoYo from this session remains a club classic to this day (the whole album was reissued by Soul Jazz Records and this track is also available on their Universal Sounds of America compilation)

They returned to the US and have since made over 25 albums and continue to play live, despite the deaths of Lester Bowie in 1999 and Malachi Favors in 2004. Their motto is "Great Black Music: Ancient To the Future" and they explore a wide variety of musical styles and influences. They also have a very distinctive appearance on stage, wearing very flamboyant costumes and face paint. Multi ? instrumentation also plays a big part, including such things as bicycle bells, horns, whistles, all sorts of ?found sounds? and a vast collection of unusual percussion instruments

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