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by Seth Colter Walls

December 5, 2013

Revolutionary Ensemble: Avant-Jazz Soul Power

by Seth Colter Walls  |  December 5, 2013

Leroy Jenkins passed in 2007, but the free-jazz violinist and classical composer's most legendary band, the Revolutionary Ensemble, released a new record this year. The band's last-ever concert, from 2005, is now their final record, Counterparts – Live. Click play on our mix, and check out "Configuration" to start things off: the slow but powerful groove created by bassist Sirone (who died in 2009) and drummer Jerome Cooper is full of soul and experimentation at once, while Jenkins' violin skips from the blues to microtonal modernism and back.

All told, this final recording might just be their best since 1975's The People's Republic (which, sadly, has never been issued on CD, let alone digitally). Counterparts is definitely one of my favorite albums of the year, and so we'll also call this a good time to check out the group's digital catalog.

The Psyche, also from 1975, reaches peak heat on "Hu-Man." Meantime, the track "Chicago," from the band's eponymous 1977 live album, shows Cooper switching to piano, and helping Jenkins along with some modern-classical sounds, during the intro. (By the end, however, Cooper is back on drums, advancing an irregular but hard-pulsing beat.) The group's 1972 statement record Vietnam is one big jam; we've selected Side B for our playlist.

After a long hiatus, the group got back together in the early 2000s. Their late studio album for Pi Recordings, And Now …, brought us a few key new Revolutionary tunes, such as "Berlin Ertarhung." Subsequent world tour dates inspired some new avant-flights, as on "Improvisation II" (from another album released after Jenkins' death). So click play and get radical-soulful with one of modern jazz's most legendary trios.

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