Director: Frank Cassenti
Time: 16 mins
Music: Art Ensemble of Chicago & Cecil Taylor
I think it was Matthew Shipp who once said that jazz is like a curse for black musicians. The Art Ensemble of Chicago would probably be one of the best examples of this. Throughout their long career, the Ensemble has explored uncharted sonic territories, creating a world of their own where contemporary sensibilities, tropical rains and otherworldly research joyfully share the same boat. No doubt, they have frequently invaded the ever-expanding jazz provinces but mostly as a stop on their way elsewhere. It could be argued, then, that except for these jazz interludes, the only thing that separates them from being considered as an experimental or contemporary ensemble is the color of their skins. But skin is thicker than water and the Ensemble is mostly thought of as a jazz outfit. This excellent concert in Paris will, I think, prove this point. There are jazz sections throughout the performance, but they rarely fail to crumble and are frequently guided by a desire to reach unsafer waters and explore possibilities in sonic abstraction. Cecil Taylor's intense performance unsettles this wide spectrum even more, turning the tables with his piano, vocal and percussion agitation. And maybe Taylor, in his incredible ability to switch codes and move from lyricism to broken rhythm and atonality in one second, is the Ensemble's best possible accomplice.