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Art Ensemble of Chicago

50th Anniversary

An illustration of Art Ensemble of Chicago wearing facepaint and traditional masks.

The champions of what they called the ‘Great Black Music’ celebrate their 50th Anniversary with special guests in a tribute to co-founders Lester Bowie, Joseph Jarman and Malachi Favors Maghostut.

Known for their live collaborative performances – visual, auditory and sensual spectacles with elaborate costumes, face paint, poetry, dance and more, the group pioneered free jazz since their formation in 1969. The ensemble evolved from founder Roscoe Mitchell's musical vision of adventurous collaborations, and integrated musical styles spanning the history of jazz and improvisation.

With Mitchell at the helm, the group is joined tonight by a number of special guest soloists, including Junius Paul, Tomeka Reid, Shabaka Hutchings and Abel Selaocoe. Together, the eighteen-strong ensemble remember their founding members no longer with us as they look back on 50 years redefining improvisation.

They have just released We are on the Edge on Pi Records and Erased Tapes, their first release for fifteen years.

This concert will start at the advertised start time and running times will be confirmed closer to the event

Produced by the Barbican in association with EFG London Jazz Festival

Eat & drink

Discover our bars, restaurants and cafés

Free Q&A

Fri 22 Nov, 6.30pm, Fountain Room
50 years of Art Ensemble of Chicago Q&A
Don Moye and Roscoe Mitchell with Kevin Le Gendre

Celebrate 50 years of the champions of the Great Black Music with founder Don Moye and Roscoe Mitchell as they talk to Kevin Le Gendre about their careers.

The ensemble that evolved from founder Roscoe Mitchell’s musical vision, explorations and adventurous collaborations in Chicago is renowned for integrity of musical styles that span the history of jazz and multi-instrumental group improvisations. The day before this concert, sit down with Moye and Mitchell to hear first-hand about their experiences of the past half a century.


Photo of a man smiling at the camera whilst holding a record

Listen: The Art Ensemble Of Chicago 50th Anniversary Special

Each month London label Erased Tapes will play a 2-hour set of specially selected tunes from their catalogue on wax as well as other favourites on NTS Radio.

Take a listen to this month's set The Art Ensemble Of Chicago 50th Anniversary Special

Photo of a man playing a conch

Watch: Art Ensemble of Chicago live at Berlin Jazz Fest 1991

Art Ensemble of Chicago, were an American jazz group that embraced a diversity of African and African American styles and sources in their creation of what they preferred to call “Great Black Music.” 

photo of shabaka hutchings

Barbican Sessions: Shabaka Hutchings

For our latest Barbican Session, one of the central figures of the London jazz scene, Shabaka Hutchings performs an improvised piece on bass clarinet.

a great photo of kamasi washington playing jazz

Listen: Jazz on Spotify

Follow our regularly updated Jazz playlist for a sample of the music you'll hear across our programme. 

Barbican Hall