Art Ensemble of Chicago: Charlie M
Art Ensemble of Chicago
Full Force (ECM 1-1167)
Composed by Lester Bowie.
Recorded: New York, January 1980
Rating: 97/100 (learn more)
The “Charlie M” referred to in the track’s title is presumably Charles Mingus, who died in 1979, the year before this was recorded (which is perhaps just as well, since Mingus by all accounts disliked being called “Charlie” and might have given composer Lester Bowie a piece of his mind, or worse). The tune is reminiscent of "My Jelly Roll Soul," Mingus' own nod to premodern jazz; “Charlie M”’s two-beat rhythms, bluesy character, and Bowie’s over-the-top expressive trumpet effects hearken back to early jazz in a similar manner. Bassist Malachi Favors adds to the Mingus-like feel by channeling the master’s percussive, ultra-physical bass technique. Saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman (on tenor and bass saxes, though it’s not entirely clear who plays which) provide a hulking accompaniment beneath Bowie, whose solo is a witty, loving paean to the continuum of jazz trumpet from Bolden through Cherry. On “Charlie M,” the AEC brought a thoroughly modern sensibility to its interpretation of an archaic style, thereby avoiding the impression of intellectual slumming that so often mars such “tributes.” A great track by a great band.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey