Luther Thomas and the Human Arts Ensemble Funky Donkey

This is a perfect example of the "Great Black Music" theory espoused by the Art Ensemble of Chicago. They performed every strain of Afro-American innovation, from Dixieland to soul to ultimate freedom, often within the same song. The Black Artists Group of St. Louis was closely related to their Chicago peers, even sharing charter member Lester Bowie (together here with younger brother Joseph Bowie). This reissue of a 1973 concert conducted by Luther Thomas features positively molten energy from each contributor, so much energy that it probably wouldn't work on a dance floor. (You can take that as a challenge, DJs.) This is intense funk that makes no pretence about being cool or laid-back. "Funky Donkey " whips off a barely controlled groove that would not sound out of place on the first couple of Joe Bowie's Defunkt albums, which appeared seven years later. Things quickly turn free with spiralling collective improv from Thomas, both Bowies, reed player J.D. Parran and guitarist Marvin Horne. This is a composed song, however, and there are horn charts throughout its 20-minute length and the ensemble picks up on cues with surprising coherence, considering the near cacophony that even a fresh, new remastering couldn't tame. If you know you got soul, you should have a few Great Black albums of your own, because the funk doesn't stop once you get off the dance floor. (Atavistic)