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Historic jazz double discs are more than greatest hits 

click to enlarge Art Ensemble of Chicago
  • Art Ensemble of Chicago

Significant new jazz collections remind music fans that there is plenty of unknown archival material out there from the last half-century. The newest comes from free-jazz collective Art Ensemble of Chicago, feted on their 50th anniversary at the recent Big Ears Festival in Knoxville. Only two original members, saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and percussionist Famoudou Don Moye, are still alive, but the ensemble that recorded We Are On the Edge (Pi Recordings) consists of 17 musicians delivering new compositions and classic Art Ensemble tunes in one studio disc and one live disc. Mitchell, nearly 80, has released this and two solo works in 18 months, an indication he carries the weight for the departed bandmates.

Specialty label Resonance Recordings is responsible for two other gems. In 2012, Resonance released an album of late-1950s recordings of guitar virtuoso Wes Montgomery, and now unexpectedly offers a two-disc encore from the vaults of Carroll DeCamp, Back on Indiana Avenue. In a mix of solos, piano quartets and organ sextets, Montgomery spotlights a playing style that influenced everyone from Ralph Towner to Ani DiFranco. Resonance also released Evans in England, with previously unknown live recordings of Bill Evans in London in 1968, when he worked with bassist Eddie Gomez on such intensely gentle pieces as “Stella by Starlight.” In the midst of a jazz renaissance, there is much left to mine in the vaults of the masters.

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