One of most respectable of living jazz drummers Jack DeJohnette is best known by his countless collaborative works with pianist Keith Jarrett and partially by his own fusion-oriented Special Edition. It's less known that he was one of the early members of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Together with his former classmates from musical college reedists Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill (among others) Jack plays live gig on 2013 Chicago Jazz Fest,quite surprisingly released by ECM.
Actually, the quintet on this recording is a re-incarnation of never recorded AACM-founder pianist Muhal Richard Abrams' band from mid 60's (adding AACM non-related bassist Larry Gray), DeJohnette is stated as leader most probably because he was an initiator of recorded concert, and because of his long-lasting relation with ECM label as well.
Six compositions come all from band members,plus one song is fully improvised. Album opens with Roscoe Mitchell's "Chant" - high energy almost seventeen minutes long composition with memorable bagpipe-like soloing, it really recalls Art Ensemble of Chicago's(AEoC) music of mid 70's (it was actually written at that time).Very impressive opening continues with "Jack 5" - not DeJohnette,but Abrams composition,quite loose and directionless, especially as for live show. Album loses its dynamic a bit, Mitchell's "Think", already more chamber and similar to his more current complex works, doesn't help much.
"Museum Of Time" is DeJohnette's new song,written specially for this gig, it's most tuneful and straight album's composition,well framed but not all that memorable.Threadgill's "Leave Don't Go Away" is soulful as all his music,well orchestrated; two above songs just return music back on earth (without being simple or easy accessible, no way!);it finishes with Larry Gray bass soloing and together with Mitchell's album opener, "Leave..." is another greatest album's composition.
After announcements (separated on CD in sixth track),the band play "something spontaneous for you" - fully improvised high energy music which sounds quite fresh and moody.Titled "Ten Minutes" it actually lasts only six (probably the result of editing because of physical CD space limitation).
All in all,this re-united all-stars band looks much better on paper than it sounds,even if I believe AEoC and AACM music fans will be really interested to hear this music. I was really surprised realized in early 2015 that there is announced extensive "Made In Chicago" tour,based on this concert's material! It's pity there are not planned gigs near my hometown, I would be really glad to see these great artists playing together, they all are living legends and important influences for last half of century's jazz.
This album,most probably released on wave of increased interest (partially in Europe) to advanced Chicago jazz of Wadada Leo Smith and Roscoe Mitchell,probably wouldn't increase drastically the number of such music lovers,but old fans will find some nice moments here for sure.