The Art Ensemble of Chicago – We Are On the Edge

LPx2, Erased Tapes, 2019


Style: Modern Creative, Chamber Jazz, Experimental Big Band, Great Black Music, Avant-Garde Classical

Vibe: Communal, Triumphant, Suspenseful, History, Eclectic, Colorful, Intricate, Ritualistic, Patient, Open, Complex, Theatric

Musical Qualities: Poly-Free Improvisation, Dynamic, Collective, Progressive Structures, Technical, Orchestral, Percussive, Reductionism, Suite, Polyphonic

Instrumentation: Trumpets, Upright Bass, Spoken Word, Operatic Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Saxophone, Cello, Violin, Viola


Track Notes (* = Recommended)

*A1 – Bell Song

  • Opening Ritual
  • Instrumental, Hypnotic, Patient, Suspenseful

**A2 – We Are On The Edge

  • Patient Victory, Powerful, Determined
  • Moor Mother Spoken word – intense, liberatory lyrics, without being utopian. Addresses racist & sexist oppression

A3 – I Greet You With Open Arms

  • Slow, Suspenseful, Sparse, Atmospheric
  • Moor Mother Poetry “Bring back the magic”

*B1 – Chi-Congo 50

  • Exploratory, Percussive, Progressive
  • Ecstatic Guttural voices become part of the music
  • becomes a full driving jam in second movement, feels like a new song

B2 – Jamaican Farewell, Part I

  • short vignette with operatic vocals

B3 – Villa Tiamo

  • Orchestrated woodwinds with symphonic harmonies

**B4 – Saturday Morning

  • Great bass & percussion groove
  • instrumental, communal, tribal

C1 – Jamaican Farewell Part II

  • operative vocal interlude
  • romantic, theatric lyrics

**C2 – Mama Koko

  • Watery Kalimba, Echoey Vocals + percussion
  • dreamy, tropical, aquatic, polyrhythmic
  • Moor Mother Vocals – Afrocentric Demands – “Take us back to our homelands… show us our mother’s face”
    – reminiscent of mystical introduction to the film Welcome II the Terrordome
  • Chanting in other languages float in background
  • liberation music
  • beautiful flute solo

C3- Fanfare and Bell

  • slow, echoey trumpet, bowed bass, slow orchestra, occasional deep sounds
  • ominous

D1 – Variations and Sketches from the Bamboo Terrace

  • slow, orchestral
  • more operatic vocals

*D2 – Oasis at Dusk

  • watery, atmospheric, exploratory, trumphant
  • chamber jazz
  • washy layers of strings, vox, horns, kalimba, percussion


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