Art Ensemble of Chicago: Magg Zelma
Art Ensemble of Chicago
Full Force (ECM 1-1167)
Composed by Malachi Favors Maghostut.
Recorded: New York, January 1980
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
Following on the heels of Nice Guys—the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s extravagantly praised ECM debut—Full Force had a tough act to follow. In fact, it did not fare as well with the critics, though perhaps a reappraisal is in order these many years later. “Magg Zelma” leads off the album; its several-minute-long, collectively improvised introduction is played by the entire group on various small percussion instruments and noisemakers, getting things off to a quiet, almost sluggish start. Once the players pick up their main instruments, however, things get on track. By the time the rhythm section kicks into a cooking latin vamp approximately halfway through, the music begins to live up to the album’s title. Drummer Don Moye and bassist Malachi Favors demonstrate why they might have been the finest free jazz rhythm section, period. Both are tremendously skillful, passionate performers, with huge ears and generous musical personalities. They burn down the house on this one. Trumpeter Bowie is all over his horn, his trademark tonal eccentricities put to excellent use, as the saxophonists adopt a scorched earth policy. Composer Favors’ quasi-Mariachi theme appears at track’s end, defusing the extreme tension that’s built up, ending the performance with a smile.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey