A full house, came saw and above all listened to The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s 75-minute set at the Jazz Cafe on Monday. What first stays in the mind is the opening. All seven musicians stood stock-still and silent and faced in the same direction. The way they instantly brought a sense of shamanistic ritual, of respect, of dignity into a chatty club had more than a touch of magic. And they held that mood. Starting with a deep thrum – pulseless long notes from the deep from the basses… and then the cello of Tomeka Reid started to skitter over them.


Then there were the moments of surprise: like Hugh Ragin’s trumpet intoning a simple melody with the classically purest of timbres.

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Or Don Moye (later to be introduced to the audience as “philospher”) on congas and then at the drum kit laying the basis for the deepest of all known grooves


Or Roscoe Mitchell’s circular breathed-multiphonics on soprano sax and on Ab sopranino sax giving way to clarity – a passionately intoned melody on alto.


This group demonstrates in a way that perhaps no other can the contrast between asserting the freedom of the individual and the depth of a shared commitment. It is a powerful message. And Monika Jakubowska’s photos portray a lot of that intensity, that concentration – and that joy. \

Check out more of Monika’s photographic work here.

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