Art Ensemble of Chicago, A Jackson in Your House / Message to Our Folks / Reese and the Smooth Ones

Seth Colter Walls

By Seth Colter Walls

on 06.07.12 in Reviews

Three hugely important 1969 albums — some of them infrequently available digitally — by Roscoe Mitchell’s breakout project, the Art Ensemble of Chicago are collected here in a high-value, no-duh purchase. (Look at that price point!) The title track of Jackson reveals the band’s postmodern mashup strategy: after the opening, jump-cut switches between free playing and modern composition, the band transitions to a New Orleans-flavored outro (one that is sincerely soulful, not mocking). Message is even better, and somehow more varied: “Old Time Religion” blends gospel and drone textures; “Dexterity” underlines the band’s connection to Bird; while “Rock Out,” as an abstraction of popular song-form, feels like avant-jazz’s answer to White Heat-era Velvet Underground. Reese is one long improvisation, split into two tracks, that is particularly worthy for the noise-guitar freakout on the second side of the original LP.