Message to Our Folks: The Art Ensemble of Chicago, a new book by St. Louis bassist and educator Paul Steinbeck, has been published by The University of Chicago Press.
Generally considered one of the most important small groups of the creative music movement that began in the 1960s, the Art Ensemble originally spun off from saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell's sextet, which was made up of musicians who were part of Chicago's storied Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.
Released in time to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Art Ensemble's founding, Message to our Folks is touted by its publisher as "the definitive study of the Art Ensemble," and Mitchell has called the book "more than we could have hoped for, telling the complete history of the Art Ensemble of Chicago in careful, engaging detail.”
"The book tells the complete history of the band, from its founding in 1966 to its final performances in the 2010s," said Steinbeck, who is an assistant professor of music theory at Washington University and plays bass with the STL Free Jazz Collective, in an email to StLJN. "Message to Our Folks also closely examines some of the group's best performances."
(At this point, it's worth noting that though born and based in the Windy City, the AEC also featured two St. Louis natives in important roles: original drummer Phillip Wilson, who left the group after one album to join the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and was replaced by Famoudou Don Moye; and trumpeter Lester Bowie, another co-founder who would remain with the band until his death in 1999.)
The book (pictured) can be purchased directly from the University of Chicago Press; from booksellers everywhere, including St. Louis' Left Bank Books and the bookstore at Washington University; and in digital form from ebook vendors such as Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Google Play, and Kobo.