Just Released: 2 LP and 4 LP Editions of The Art Ensemble of Chicago's We Are On the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration

Last April, the iconic, innovative and internationally renowned force in avant-garde music The Art Ensemble of Chicago released their 50th anniversary celebratory album We Are On The Edge. Erased Tapes just issued two vinyl editions of this release, one a double LP studio session featuring a newly assembled group of musicians performing new versions of works spanning the past 50 years, some never before recorded, plus new compositions. The second set is a 4 LP special edition that also includes a live set recorded at Ann Arbor, MIchigan's Edgefest, the annual experimental jazz and creative new music festival.

Led by surviving founding members Roscoe Mitchell and drummer Famoudou Don Moye, the group is joined on these recordings by jazz, experimental and improvisational artists including poet and musician Moor Mother, trumpeters Fred Berry and Hugh Ragin (both of whom have performed with Mitchell for more than four decades), bassist Jaraibu Shahid, cellist Tomeka Reid, flute virtuoso Nicole Mitchell and vocalist Rodolfo Cordova-Lebron.

(Photo: Barbara Barefield)
We Are On The Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration commemorates both a half-century of magical music making and pays loving tribute to the band’s three original members who have passed: Lester Bowie, Malachi Favors, and most recently, Joseph Jarman.

Producer Robert Raths emailed to add "the lacquers were cut by Barry Grint at Alchemy, London and designed in collaboration with Bernd Kuchenbeiser in Munich".

This set will be reviewed as soon as it arrives.

Mark Evans's picture

at the Chicago Jazz Festival on August 30th at the Pritzker Pavilion. The facility has a great sound system to listen to live music.

Montpier's picture

Yes, he is a longstanding member of AEC, but Moye was not actually a "founding" member. (He's more like the Ronnie Wood.) There were a few drummers, most notably Phillip Wilson (who moved on to join Paul Butterfield!) associated with earlier Roscoe Mitchell AACM groups and performances as AEC, but most of their initial recordings featured what you correctly later called the "original" quartet of Mitchell with Jarman, Bowie and Favors. Not having a drummer and that the group members all played a variety of small "instruments" (hub caps?) were among the distinctive features of their early music. (If you can find it check out "People in Sorrow" on Nessa but unfortunately looks like it, as well as many of their perhaps most accessible ECM recordings, are now hard to find on vinyl.*)

Heard performance of "We Are On The Edge" at Knoxville's Big Ears this past March and it definitely was, well, different. Not that there is/was a typical AEC performance, but this was really all over the place musically. Roscoe Mitchell was magnificent and I'm looking forward to how it translates to vinyl.

Great that you're highlighting this new music on vinyl (or in the case of the Nathan Davis first seeing the light of day) that's not being released as part of a pricey subscription series of coffee table bound boxed sets or the umpteenth reissue of classic Blue Notes or Verves.

* have to say that if you told me 30 years ago that seminal 70's AEC recordings were unavailable on vinyl but there were, what, maybe 20? 30? Sun Ra albums being reissued I'd have thought you were crazy... 'Odwalla' is not just fruit juice. (AEC ended the Big Ears performance with their beautiful closer but looks like it's not on the new release?)

Montpier's picture

given the length of comments for the Abbey Road remaster decided to personally attempt to close the gap!

MalachiLui's picture

like you mentioned, I don't think the 70s stuff is available on vinyl currently but ORG Music recently reissued their early (late 60s) albums on the Freedom label. I have the RSD red vinyl of "The Spiritual" cut at SST and pressed at Pallas and it sounds fantastic. one of the best sounding digitally-sourced records I've ever heard.

Montpier's picture

Good to know as AEC recorded at least a dozen albums in the year or so after their June 1969 arrival in Paris, mostly great music but a wide variance of recording and (especially) pressing quality across multiple reissues.

Just got word that 'We Are On The Edge' is on its way to me. It's a big ensemble with a mix of acoustic and electronics, and a lot going on -- they had a conductor onstage at some points! -- so I'm sure it was quite a challenge to capture the music.

BTW - if interested in reading more about the AEC can recommend "Message To Our Folks" by Paul Steinbeck.

Montpier's picture

Check out the photo. As for the "We..." note the diversity of ethnicity, gender and age reflected in this ensemble who are ",,, on the Edge"

gbougard's picture

This reissue is magnificently packaged. Red, white and black never fail. Ask the Nazis, Marlboro...